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My patients and other animals

Updated on March 6, 2013

Today it was suggested by a fellow professional veterinary nurse trainee colleague that I could blog about veterinary nursing v human nursing. Thank you to Hannah for this suggestion, which seems very apt as I have recently been blogging about my nursing experience over the years. Only last night on Facebook I was chatting to a friend and past colleague Nick about nursing models and excessive paperwork which prevents us from doing the job we trained for.

I had not considered the fact that nursing models may be mirrored in veterinary nursing, which proved an interesting research point today. A lot of medical research and models have been transferred from medicine to veterinary medicine. One example of this is Roper Logan and Tierneys model of nursing from the good old 1980's. It struck every student nurse with dread as we had to write care plans for patients based on these 12 elements. We all seemed to skip number 10 in our teenage naivety and embarrassing red cheeks at the thought of having to discuss this with a patient.

Similarly veterinary nurses use nursing models of care such as Orpet and Jefferey (2007) with its 10 abilities to consider all aspects of wellbeing of an animal, not merely focus on the issue of the injury or ailment before them.

The idea in both cases is that we as nurses are the patients advocate, delivering a personalised plan of individualised care based on all the elements. During my career I found a variety of interpretations of this. Some areas truly delivered personal care plans, involving and empowering the patient, whilst others dealt with it by having filing cabinets of pre written care plans on which you personalised it merely by adding the patients name! With animals of course it would be impossible to discuss the care plan with them, but this can still be achieved by involving the owner is possible to ensure that a routine or favourite food/dislikes are taken into account. Many of the complaints in any care profession are around lack of communication, treating individuals as just that.

In my current role we use ICPs - Integrated care pathways, an American concept of electronic tick boxes for care delivered. Although my colleagues state this is time consuming, its is no way as long as the tedious hand written care plans of old. The downside though is that the tick boxes "yes", "no", do not allow for shifts from the norm or unexpected incidents. This results in you having to write a lengthy handwritten evaluation note, so has technology really moved us on in time? Don't even get me started on the system crashes and frozen PC screens!

Nurses in whatever job role, have always historically been hand maidens. Over my career I have dutifully trotted behind the Consultant and entourage and been left outside the curtains of the ward round fighting my way back in more times than I care to mention. I have cleared away bloody instrument covered trolleys without a second thought. This is what I trained to do wasn't it? 26 years down the line, I am a little more savvy and now lead the ward round, and woe betide any surgeon who doesn't decontaminate his hands or clean his own equipment away! I am lucky that my Consultant colleagues are in the main respectful of my standing and experience and we work together, as it is a reasonably small unit. I know my veterinary nurse colleagues will also suffer this same inferiority complex at times. We are both professional in our own right and must always strive to be seen as such, as we do respect our surgical colleagues in the main!

The training for nursing is 3 years, versus 2 for veterinary nurses. We both however never stop studying or learning and have a mandatory requirement to provide continual professional development proof to re register on a yearly basis. This also comes with a fee - we actually pay to work and its never ending in its increase! On the nursing aspect we receive very little in reality for this (not even the old plastic registration card) apart from the protection of a legal case against us. We each have to prove our worth through post registration modules and degree pathways, length of experience no longer worth its salt.

The salary of both professions is in no way comparable. A qualified veterinary nurse can expect between £14-22,000 rising to £25,000 as a senior veterinary nurse, whereas qualified nurses can earn between £18 to £34,000. Perhaps you may argue that human life is worth more? In my eyes veterinary nursing is not just about cuddling animals. Like my nursing profession, it is not glamourous, we both take the rough with the smooth, we roll with the punches/kicks of aggressive patients/animals (and bites). We both deal with emergencies as well as the routine. We clean, decontaminate malodorous and items you don't even want to think about. We both observe, monitor, soothe, reassure, provide a safe clean environment, sterile equipment, care for pre, intra and post operative patients/animals. Both these roles matter. Personally I don't see an animal as any less important than a person in being cared for in a compassionate and thoughtful way.

I have had aggressive, violent patients as well as easy mannered docile ones. I have had hairy patients as well as smooth. I have had mud covered patients as well as pristine. I have had quiet patients as well as those who bark orders. Nursing versus animal nursing? No difference. We both care, we both want to ease suffering. That's what we train to do every day. Equally as important to a humane society. Hannah, I take my hat off to you and all the very best in your forthcoming exams and future career. I look forward to your guest blog in the future.


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    • khmazz profile image

      Kristen Mazzola 

      5 years ago from South Florida

      Great hub! I really enjoyed it! I look forward to reading more of your hubs :)

    • Starseeker46 profile image

      Star Seeker 

      5 years ago from A Kaleidoscopic Mind

      Brilliant! Enjoyable read.


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