"You are so great with animals, you should totally do vet nursing"
"You are like the local Dr Dolittle, have you thought about working with animals?'
My entry into the veterinary world wasn't so clear cut. Yeah I liked animals, actually I loved my cat more than coffee and at one point wanted to marry her, that's how deep my love was for her may she rest in peace. But it wasn't the 'I want to save animals' that was the driving force, it was more like 'If one more person asks for another cappucino I am going to punch them in the face.'
I don't condone violence - but people are stupid.
My entry into the veterinary world went more like this. I don't want to be a waitress anymore, but I don't know what I want to do - so I went searching and I got as far as my lounge room. I grabbed a piece of paper and a trusty pen and I got jotting. I wrote down all the things I liked and by the end of week three, I had an impressive list.
Landscape gardener was at the top until I realised that I got sunburnt and I hate spiders. Googling random shit was another passion but I didn't think I could make a career out of it so that was crossed off. Graphic design was another one. I must had been on an acid trip when I came up with that pearler cause I wouldn't know a primary colour from the other colours and interior decorator was another brainwave I thought I would be good at - but honestly I'm too critical to be creative. But something did jump out at me. Cats. I like cats, so this is what I focused on. I decided to study Animal Studies Certificate cause I thought working with cats would be cool - better than making cappucinos anyway.
In order to study the course, I needed to be working with animals so off I went hunting for animal shelters and one place said yes and they only had cats and I punched the air. I started my course and volunteered one day a week at a cat rescue and life was great. I was even nice to the wanker at the cafe who would generally piss me off. I went to class every week and held on to every word the teacher said, believed every word the students said and sat next to the smartest girl in the class, but it was the woman who sat behind me that ultimately changed the course of my life. I bumped into her in my unit block and we got talking. She told me that a boarding kennel/cattery and stables were looking for a staff member and that I should go for it. So I did. I got the job.
I was making $16 an hour and loved every second of that job. I never took a sick day, never went on holidays, always worked back or came in early. If there was ever a job that I would have worked at for free, this was it. I couldn't believe I was getting paid to do this. Then my pay went up to $18 an hour and I couldn't believe my luck.
It is probably about now you are waiting for the bubble to burst. It did, but not here. That comes later.
I was moving house and the distance between the kennel job and my new house was too far to sustain long term, so I needed another plan. I thought I should do vet nursing cause there were heaps of jobs for vet nursing in my new area. I enrolled in the vet nursing course in the July and completed it in the November. It took me 4 months, 15 mental breakdowns, 11 abusive emails to my tutor and about 3 crying episodes to get from one point to the next but I did it and during that period I managed to score a paying job at a mixed practice. It was hard and it didn't help that one of the nurses was a shitty raging cow, but she soon changed her tune when it came to light that a staff member was sleeping with her husband.
I suppose you're wondering why you should study this crazy career. I'm getting to it.
I was lucky with that job. They took me in green and 3 years later I walked away with more experience than most vet nurses gain in 10 years. I ended up moving interstate so I said goodbye to the kennel job and the vet clinic job and got a one way ticket north. I ended up working in many clinics after I moved. Some were amazing and some were crap. I have worked with the most incredible vets and nurses the industry has to offer and I have worked with the most deranged and abusive staff that sent me into therapy.
And this was my downfall.
The roller coaster you are subjected to and quite frankly, I lost my mojo. I was seeking a clinic like my original clinic and to my horror, I found no two clinics were the same. Instead of embracing it, I was engulfed by it and I came crashing down hard and fast. And apparently I am not alone. But what I learnt is that you get the good with the bad...in any industry. There is toxicity in every sector, not just the veterinary industry. People are shocked when they learn of a staff member that isn't all laughter and smiles, rainbows and lollipops. People have a preconceived idea of what the industry staff are like and how they should behave - but with every Kevin comes a Karen and that alone is enough to drive one to drink.
You will hear lots of stories and what I can tell you is when I was a trainee, the shitty cow nurse had said to me 'You will only ever be good at cleaning shit from cages' Exact words said to me over 15 years ago which are still etched into my brain. You will hear stories like - long hours, burnout, no breaks, bad working conditions, crap pay, clients from hell, staff from hell, animal abuse, client abuse, no money, depression, anxiety, suicide, pressure and everything else in between.
What you won't hear are the hilarious stories like when 20 beach-goers came running into the clinic crying because they all had been stung by jellyfish and were wanting treatment and how a girl came into the clinic because she had a bug stuck in her ear and wanted the vet to remove it (he did) and the time when the vet thought the client was leaning in for a kiss and he fell off his chair to avoid it - but she was just getting something from her bag. She was very confused as to why he was now on the floor and it's times like these that get you through the rough patches. You won't hear about the intimate stories either that staff share with their working buddies. These are the people that go through your breakups with you, that help you choose furniture for your house, that give you sound advice, cheer you on and hug you when you need it - because after all you are all in it together.
What do you need to survive this industry? A thick skin for starters. If you are too sensitive then you simply won't survive this harsh industry. You have to be good at basic psychology as clients can send you round the bend. You will spend more time with clients than with their pets. Some clients are amazing and some are questionable and you need to find your happy medium. You must set boundaries and stand up to the bullies in a strong yet respectful manner and you have to know your shit - seriously. You need to know all the drugs and medications, their indication and contraindications, you need to know anatomy, physiology and pathology just to start.
You need to excel in communication and posses empathy. It's a tough industry and only the strong will survive, but it is worth it. You have to have each others back. The industry is hard for nurses but harder for vets, so it is paramount that you check in with each other. You need downtime, you need your own hobbies outside of the industry just to decompress and you need good and gory stories because your friends will be counting on it and will hang onto your every word. And get ready for handing out free pet advice to people you went to school with decades ago. They all come out of the woodwork.
The money is crap for the amount of work that you do and the knowledge you possess - you are definitely worth more, but there is more to the animal sector than working in a clinic. There is dog walking, pet sitting and grooming which can become a lucrative side hustle.
It is true that in Australia and many other countries you do not need to hold a veterinary nursing certificate in order to practice as a vet nurse and there are many non certified nurses working beside you right now - and you wouldn't even know it. So if you don't need a certificate, then why study it? Because the course gives you more insight and a thorough understanding of animal related topics, so instead of walking in green like I did and having a meltdown when seeing the shelf of medications, you can walk in with confidence because you know the drill, you have an understanding and a familiarity - but it does depend on which course you study and where you study as your learning outcome will be completely different.
Why study vet nursing then? Because it's awesome, that's why and the rewards are worth it and you will have a sense of pride completing it.
So what am I doing now? I am still working in the industry - it couldn't get rid of me that easily, I am just not in a clinic setting...well for now anyway...
watch this space.