RCVS International Award 2022

May ’22 is Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month, and I’ve been given the best news ever.

I have been awarded recognition from the RCVS. Winning the RCVS International Award is incredible, humbling, and rewarding, and I’m over the moon.

Here’s why. Qualifying as a VN was very challenging. There were naysayers in my life, but many of my failures were self-inflicted. I don’t have any learning difficulties, but I was one of the worst kids in the class at school. Always talking, never listening and once in high school, frequently in detention. Unlike my siblings, I rarely did homework and never studied.

Despite my parent’s best efforts, encouragement and support, I was only really interested in one subject – animals. Name an animal species, and I could think, write and speak clearly about them. Intuition, understanding and practical application of ‘anything animal’ came easily to me.

Back in school, painful discussions took place with teachers and career advisers about my behaviour, grades and the limits I was putting on my future. But trying to memorise information (specifically maths or science) was futile; I had no interest, and failing exams was the norm. That was it. I was 16 years old and finished with my education. I was off to see the world.

I found my dream job in veterinary practice many years later – as a receptionist. I was soon ‘out the back’ more than the front desk and fought hard to get the senior partner to sign my student nursing enrolment form. I self-funded my studies and attended college in my own time.

My siblings and friends (all now long out of university) tried to teach me learning skills, mnemonics and ran me through my flashcards. Studying could be tortuous, and exams were always difficult, but after several goes, I did it. I was a qualified veterinary nurse registered with the RCVS.Hands-on welfare work was always my thing, and I gravitated towards the PDSA, Blue Cross and RSPCA. With a passion for improving the physical health of animals in our care and their mental well-being, I became slightly obsessed with patients not just recovering but thriving. I pushed myself to study kennel and cattery management to better understand standards and legislation.

My assignments passed muster, and my penchant in the mid-’90s for redesigning the layout of wards and prep rooms took off. More than once, I was told, “Put all those animals back where you found them!” after repositioning the prey and predator species in the typically named ‘miscellaneous room’.

Planting a garden to grow fresh fruit and vegetables for the patients in the nurse’s accommodation also raised eyebrows, as did my attempts to sew ‘blinds’ for the wildlife kennels.The flip side to this was being frequently asked for my advice. When requests for my help started to outweigh my regular working hours, it was suggested I set up my own business; provide voluntary consultancy to small rescues but also charge commercial and large NGOs for my services.

This concept was truly out of my comfort zone. I’m only a veterinary nurse! How am I even remotely qualified to do this? A severe sufferer of imposter syndrome, I forced myself to find a course at Open University. It was hard, but after several attempts, I eventually passed the exams to receive my Diploma in Business Studies.

The rest is history with Miranda Luck & Associates, pushing me to continually learn and providing me with constant work since 2007. I highlight and improve shelter medicine and management, humane handling, TNR and equipment design by offering freelance consulting for numerous charities, NGOs, municipalities and governments worldwide.

I have had the joy of working in Canada, Croatia, Costa Rica, Greece, Japan, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, UAE and the USA. Clients include lots and lots of vet practices, rescue organisations, Pet Advisory Committee, Farm Animal Welfare Forum, Poultry Welfare Forum, Compassion in World Farming, MDC Exports, Cat Chat, and many others.

Self-employment can be scary; there are no paid holidays or sick leave, but I am very fortunate to have family, friends and colleagues who believe in me and my work and support me on this fantastic journey. I don’t intend on giving up anytime soon.

This is rather long (sorry!), but I wanted to emphasise an important message. The beauty of being a self-reliant low educational achiever is no expectation of achievement or success! Just keep at it, and determination and passion will get you there. And when some success does come your way, embrace it! I am!

The theme for VNAM ’22 is #OurProfessionMyResilience.

To see my TVNZ interview, simply click on this link to watch on their Facebook page.