Veterinary Nursing is a fantastic profession. If you love animals, few things could be better than a life dedicated to their care and welfare. Veterinary Nursing is a vocation, a way of life and a dream job for many. But unfortunately, as with so many career choices driven by a deep-seated passion, the upsides are accompanied by downsides.
Long hours and limited pay levels tend to rule the career paths of Veterinary Nurses. This sacrifice is well worth it for many, such is the desire to work hands on with animals. And, as animal lovers, owners and protectors ourselves, we know only too well what a gift it is to have them in our lives. But if you’re a veterinary nurse that yearns for a role that gives your life a bit more, while still allowing you to use your qualifications and to help the health of animals, you might be excited to know that there are countless animal-related career opportunities for veterinary nurses outside of nursing itself.
One of our expert career consultants – Kay Ritchie – is an RVN with years of direct experience in practice. However, she is no longer in a veterinary nursing role.
Below she shares her reasons for wanting to be a veterinary nurse, why she changed to a new career path and she also has some fantastic advice if you feel that you too would like to explore new opportunities.
Kay talks about how she decided upon Veterinary Nursing as a career
“I’d dreamt of becoming a veterinary nurse from a very young age and followed career advice from peers around the various routes that could be taken. I decided that the degree route was not the right decision for me, so investigated a more practical way of achieving my career ambitions.
“Whilst studying for my GCSE’s, I started work in a boarding kennels to gain some experience working with both animals and people (although I preferred the animal part by a mile at that time!). Following successful completion of my GCSE’s, I moved to an agricultural college where I undertook my Diploma in small animal care. It was during this course that I was given the opportunity to start my career as a veterinary nurse in my work placement practice.”
Working as a Veterinary Nurse
“I stayed with my first practice in County Durham for almost 10 years, achieving my Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing. As a non-appointment practice with opening hours of 8.45am – 7pm (full days, no shifts back then) and weekend plus out of hours work, it was a fantastic way to to learn the trade and really allowed me to develop, both as person and as a VN.
“Following the retirement of my mentor and owner of this practice, I moved into another first opinion practice in the city of Durham that specialised in working dogs and exotics. Here I spent another 6 years, continuing to learn and sharing my experience with new members of the team before making the decision to move out of clinical practice.”
Veterinary Nursing – the good and the bad…
“I loved the teamwork aspect of being a vet nurse and in both practices I was fortunate to work with people that shared my love for providing high quality animal care. Continuing to grow and look at new ways of working was always exciting – the technological developments that facilitated massive improvements in animal healthcare compared to when I started in practice were amazing to see and experience.
“However, the long hours and low pay of practice work were hard to cope with. Additionally, public perception around the skills and qualifications of Veterinary Nurses led me to feeling undervalued over the years.”
Why Kay decided to change her career path and how she went about exploring other opportunities outside of Veterinary Nursing
“I was finding that although I still had the love for my role, the drive and enjoyment that I’d had at the beginning of my career was no longer there. I think with a lot of experience comes the lack of challenge that I enjoyed and I felt that new opportunities in the industry could provide me with exciting new challenges, whilst also offering me greater potential for career advancement.
“When I was looking to see what other jobs were out there, there weren’t many resources accessible for Vets and Veterinary Nurses to help them seek alternative, non practice-based roles. Consequently, I went down the generic job-hunting route. The people helping me at that time didn’t understand my background fully, so couldn’t advise me as to where my next challenge may come from, without taking me away from the veterinary world completely. And I didn’t want that. I was fortunate that an Account Manager visiting my practice happened to mention that they had a vacancy for the North East and so the next step in my career was taken.
“Fortunately, with social media and specialist recruitment companies such as Noble Futures, the knowledge and experience is there for anyone that has questions and that is looking for professional advice on how to move out of a practice based role, without leaving the industry that we all know and love so much”.
From Practice to Commercial roles
“My role after moving out of practice was as an account manager for a veterinary pharmaceutical company, where I stayed for just over 7 years. This was a complete change that allowed me to continue learning and to grow my skill set. Although this was a completely alien role to me in the beginning, I found that my passion for veterinary medicine increased. I loved learning about new products and advances and equally enjoyed then using that information to train and teach veterinary professionals across the North East of England.
“I’m now working as a Recruitment Consultant for Noble Futures, helping both companies and candidates find their ideal role or team member within animal related industries.
“This still heavily uses all my background as both an RVN and an account manager, as it allows me to use my experience and knowledge of the veterinary industry to find the perfect person for the job or to find the perfect job for the person!”
Kay’s advice to Veterinary Nurses thinking about changing career focus
“Ask questions! There are so many avenues that you can follow if you’re thinking of leaving practice, without leaving the animal health industry. Have a belief in the huge skill set that you have as an RVN, pick out the aspects of the job that you love and the ones you don’t and discuss with the right people to see which roles, career paths and opportunities have the right fit for you.”
If you would like to chat in confidence with Kay or any other of our expert recruitment consultants, please do get in touch. Finding the right jobs in animal health for the right people is what we do and we can help bring your career to a whole new level.