We interviewed newly qualified Registered Veterinary Nurses Emma Ruggles to find out more about her role on the nursing team, her working hours and what support she was given as a student to present day.

When did you start? 
I started working at Millennium Vets 30th November 2015 

What was your previous experience? 
I worked at another veterinary practice previously as a cleaner/assistant on a Saturday for 6 months and then as a student veterinary nurse for 2 and a half years before joining the Millennium team to complete my training.   I also completed work experience placements in veterinary practices during school as well as working as a volunteer at the RSPCA and Remus Horse Sanctuary in my spare time. 

What attracted you to the MVP role? 
Having visited MVP during the earlier stages of my nurse training in order to complete the endoscope section on my NPL or Nurse Progress Log.   This is completed online and is evidence of my knowledge, competence and understanding of all the practical aspects of my training - its a lot of work and needs to be completed to the full before you are allowed sit the exams.   

I was attracted by the facilities available to include endoscopy, MRI, referral level orthopaedic surgery and ... full digital x-ray, a separate laboratory for processing samples and the opportunity to nurse patients undergoing a wide variety of diagnostic/surgical procedures. As well as this I was attracted by the variable caseload seen at MVP and the kind and friendly team of staff that work at the practice. 

What are our facilities and equipment like?
All of the facilities and equipment are modern and up to date enabling us to provide the highest standards of patient care and treatment.  

How did our practice compare to where you have worked?  
I previously worked at a small first opinion practice, MVP is a larger referral practice consisting of both first opinion as well as referral cases.   In terms of scale MVP was much larger than where I had previously worked as it consists of 2 fully equipped sterile operating theatres, prep area, x-ray room, MRI suite, spacious (separate) dog, cat and isolation wards, 5 consulting rooms, laundry room and laboratory. I really enjoy the varied case load seen at MVP and the opportunity to nurse a variety of patients and work alongside certificate holder vets and nurses to provide high standards of care to all the patients we see. 

What support were you given when you first arrived? 
When I first arrived at MVP I was still a student veterinary nurse and studying for my practical exams at college in order to complete my course. I was given great support from the practice team right from day one.  The Head Nurse ensured I was able to shadow the nurses one on one initially in order to become familiar with the practice protocols/daily routines and where everything was. 

I spent my first week in the operating theatre assisting the vets with a range of surgeries and procedures alongside the theatre nurses.  All of the staff were very friendly, welcoming, patient and supportive and encouraged me to ask questions, which really helped to boost my confidence and enable me to continue learning and developing my nursing skills from the very start. 

What is the nursing rota like and how does the shift pattern and on call rota work?
The rota incorporates a variety of shifts each with a 1 hour lunch break included. 

Ward Nursing shifts:
  • Dog ward 7am- 3:30pm: You are the nurse responsible for the patients pre- and post-op in dog ward for that day as well as any stray cats or cats who have been admitted to the isolation ward.
  • Cat Ward 8am – 4:30pm: You are the nurse responsible for the patients pre- and post-op in cat ward and any wildlife or dogs in isolation ward for that day
  • Late Wards 11:30am-7:30pm: You are the nurse responsible for covering the dog/cat ward nurses lunch breaks so working in both wards and generally nursing the patients across all wards that day up until 7:30pm.  Case hand over is really important for all shifts to ensure continuity of care for all the shifts.
  • Twilight shift 2pm-10pm: You are the nurse responsible for discharging any patients that have been in that day and going through relevant aftercare information with clients. Working in wards, you have a 30min break at 6:30-7pm as it is a slightly shorter shift - you then get a handover from the late ward nurse before they leave at 7:30pm.  After that you are responsible for ensuring all patients have everything they need for overnight if they are staying in
  • When you are on the twilight shift you are also the nurse on-call for emergencies/out of hours cases with the late vet until 10pm.   If any patients are in a critical condition and require intensive overnight nursing care or if a client requests that a nurse be present through the night for their pet - you are responsible for staying overnight at the practice and caring for the patients with the on-call-vet and assist during the night if required. You then handover to the dog ward nurse at 7am and have the next day off work. 
There are a range of theatre shifts too:
  • Early theatre 8am-4:30pm:  This includes opening up/setting up the preparation rooms and theatres for the day when you arrive , e.g. cleaning down the theatres, x-ray and prep room 
  • Referral Theatre Nurse and Extra Theatre Nurse 8:30am-5pm: Assist all vets with surgeries that day and if you are on the referral nurse shift you are responsible for any of the orthopaedic surgeries and working alongside/assisting vet Lindsey Nice our RCVS Advanced Practitioner in Small Animal Orthopaedics or Tina Dutta one of our Certificate in Small Animal Surgery vets with their patients/procedures for that day. 
  • Late theatre 9:30am -6pm: Works in theatre and assists with any surgeries and procedures up until 6pm. 
  • Admit/Theatre/Lab 8am-4:30pm: You are the nurse responsible for admitting the patients coming into the practice that day, and once admits are complete you then assist where needed this may include being an extra nurse in theatre or working in the laboratory processing samples, also topping up/cleaning consulting rooms in the afternoon. 
Weekend Work:

  • Saturday 8am-1pm: Then you are on call with a vet until 10pm
  • Sundays 9am-11am: You are on call with the vet until 10pm. 
  • Post working weekend day off! You then have the Monday off work. 
I enjoy working a variety of shifts in different areas of the practice and usually this will include a week of wards or theatre / lates / earlies in alternation each week.  I also personally enjoy some of the on-call work as it can include working on emergencies / critical care nursing cases.

How many days off do you get a year?
We get 20 days holiday a year plus bank holidays.  We can also incur extra days off over a period of time for the amount of time we have worked here and also if we haven't had a day off sick over the previous year.  

Are you encouraged to go on any courses and how is this funded?
Every nurse has an allocated CPD allowance/budget to spend each year provided by the practice and includes days off outside of your holiday entitlement. CPD and additional training/certificates is actively encouraged to develop your skills as a nurse further should you wish. I am starting my Certificate in Veterinary Nursing Emergency and Critical Care course in April 2017 as I have always had a keen interest in nursing intensive cases/critical patients and would like to develop my knowledge and skills in this specific field of nursing. 

All vets and nurses annual fees for RCVS registration (which gives us our licence to practice) and Veterinary Defence Society cover is paid in full by the practice.   Annual membership to the British Veterinary Nursing Association is also fully funded.  We have practice membership to a number of different associations and organisations so we have access to their journals, (and a pretty well stocked staff library!).  We also have regular 1 hour lunch and learn meetings covering different aspects of veterinary care - so it makes it very accessible, plus your lunch paid for that day (!) and the hours add up over the year in contributing to our 15 hours of CPD we have to undertake as part of our annual registration commitment. 

What are your colleagues like?!
I feel lucky to work with such a great team of nurses and vets. All of the staff are friendly and teamwork is very important to all of us.  We actively help and support each other during work and work hard together as a team. 

Free Fruit Fridays is a weekly feature and the practice buys loads of fruit for the staff room to keep us healthy! There is a mass purchase of McFluries on occasion (funded!), celebration of staff's special birthdays, anniversaries, exam successes or just for the sake of it (!).  We have an annual event for all members of staff and another usually around Christmas time for all of us and our partners which is also fully funded by the practice.  We sometimes go out for lunch at Freeport together and quite often meet up socially for meals out / sport and fitness activities or group dog walks with all of our staff dogs.  

What are your main Veterinary Nursing interests and do your own interests match what the practice would like you to do? 
I have a keen interest in all aspects of veterinary nursing, and a personal interest in emergency/critical care nursing.  MVP were very keen and supportive for me to register and begin my Cert VN ECC in April.  Personally it will give me vital additional skills which I can then use daily as part of the nursing care we give.   I can contribute to the continual improvement in the high standard of nursing care that the nursing team give, with my added knowledge and skills in dealing with emergencies and critical patients.  The practice really values this and will support me along the way.  When I gain this certificate I will also have a salary review.

What are your aspirations while working at the practice and what do you hope to achieve - where can you see yourself in 5 years?!
Still here!  Continuing to learn and develop my nursing skills, and I am aspiring to complete my Cert VN ECC to increase my skills and knowledge in this field of nursing. 

Is there career progression generally, across the team?
There is a range of career progression across the team of nurses and vets within the practice. Many of the vets are post-grad certificate holders or are studying for a certificate now! As with the nursing team we have nurses who either have or studying towards post-qualification certificates or diplomas in a range of fields to further their careers to include Cert VN ECC, Exotic animal nursing, anaesthesia/surgical certificates, ISFM Diploma in Feline Nursing or RCVS Advanced Veterinary Nursing Diploma.

We hope you have enjoyed reading Emma's interview and that it gives an insight to what it is like to be a member of our nursing team.  Thanks Emma!

To read testimonials from past staff members, click here.