Tafara is an Emergency and Critical Care veterinary nurse working in the RVC’s Queen Mother Hospital for Animals. He is always a friendly face in the hospital, forms bonds quickly with the animals in his care and is confident in his work, which also includes teaching the veterinary medicine and nursing students. As you can imagine, emergency and critical care patients require a lot of attention, so Taf was kind enough to give up some of his free time to chat to us about his journey into veterinary nursing.
How did you get into veterinary nursing?
I’ve always loved animals and so I thought I wanted to be a vet because it's often the first animal-related profession that springs to mind. It wasn’t until I’d done lots of work experience and got involved in the nursing aspect, that I realised this is what I really wanted to do.
What does a normal working day look like for you?
I wake up at 6am to get to work for 8am, at which point we have ‘morning rounds’. Morning rounds is a handover of cases from the night team to the day team where the nurses go through patients' clinical history and updates about what has been happening for each individual animal. We are allocated patients then it’s up to us for the day to nurse them and ensure we are doing all we can to help them get better.
"Hectic is the exception rather than the rule but you are always on your feet and moving around."
If the patients are new to us, then typically the first part of the day is spent getting familiar with them - understanding what’s happened before, what’s happening at the moment and their plan for the day. This is important because if you don’t know your patient it can be difficult to nurse them effectively. Different nurses work in different ways. I like to start from zero, so I get to know the patient, make sure they’ve been walked, their bed is clean, complete their morning checks, then I have a basis for the rest of the shift. The rest of the day is spent keeping up with medications, treatments and general nursing care. It's not always hectic, normally it's manageable. Hectic is the exception rather than the rule but you are always on your feet and moving around and when it's busy, it can be very busy!
We follow through with the patients' plan, which may often change as their condition changes. As the nurses work so closely with the animals throughout the day we are often in the best position to feedback about patient progress or our concerns to the vet. A good nurse and vet team have a dynamic where everything is about a conversation and communication, and this can have a really positive impact on our patients' care.
Evening rounds are from 8-8:30pm, when we have over to the night staff, then I head home. On my days off I spend my time working towards a certificate in emergency and critical care, I also play piano and like going running.
"Life is about experiencing things and is better to experience something and say ‘that’s not for me’ than to never experience it and never know."
What did you want to be when you were 16?
A vet would have been my first answer. Veterinary nurses often work behind the scenes so it’s sometimes a lesser-known profession, but it’s becoming more popular. I only wish I had discovered it earlier!
What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Be open-minded; try lots of different things because you won’t know what you want to do until you try it. It's okay not to enjoy something and to change your mind. Life is about experiencing things and it's better to experience something and say ‘that’s not for me’ than to never experience it and never know.
What’s the best thing you have done so far in your career?
Joining the RVC. Throughout my training as a veterinary nurse I always wanted to work in a referral hospital. So now to be where I've always wanted to be is amazing and I'm really enjoying it.
Qualifying was also a big milestone in terms of working towards something and then getting the recognition for all the hard the work.
Why do you love your job?
I love having the ability to make a hands-on difference and I love animals, of course. The difference I have found between vets and nurses is like an architect and a builder. Both have the same goal, they both work in the same field and they both build buildings but their roles are very different. The architects come up with a magnificent idea and concept of the building, then they work with the builder to build it. I enjoy being on the front line and seeing the difference that I am making.
"I enjoy being on the front line and seeing the difference that I am making."
Why is vet nursing so important?
As a nurse you are an advocate for the patient and you are their voice e.g. if you think the patient is painful you can say whether you think they need more analgesia [pain relief]. We are often with the patients for consecutive days so you can see their progress first-hand. This is important not just for us, but also for our patients who get to build a bond with a familiar face, which is crucial when they are in hospital and away from home.
Do you think you get to do more or less than you thought you would when you first started?
Definitely more. Nursing is one of those professions that is very versatile. There is hospital nursing, practice nursing, teaching, and many more career avenues. I really enjoy hospital nursing and I've acquired and continue to acquire so many skills, doing things that I never imagined I would. There are times when you are training the vets how to do things and vice versa. You can really progress within nursing it just depends how far you want to go.
What one thing can a student hoping to become a nurse do today to get started?
Do lots of work experience, but most importantly, shadow the nurses because that will be the best way to appreciate and understand what it is we do. Go into work experience saying “I want to do nursing, show me what nursing is about,” and get a taste for what is an amazingly rewarding career.
"You can really progress within nursing it just depends how far you want to go."
Written by: Stephanie Stapleton
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https://www.rvc.ac.uk/study/undergraduate (Veterinary nursing at the RVC)
https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/apprenticeship-standards/veterinary-nurse/ (Veterinary nursing apprenticeships)