Sharon Davies is our Practice Manager and also one of our Registered Veterinary Nurses. She has kindly taken the time out to tell us about the life of a Vet Nurse.
How long have you been in your current role and what positions have you held previously?
I officially commenced my new role at the beginning of March this year (it is very early days!) My career has naturally progressed over a 31-year period which started when I was just 17 years of age. This is when I originally joined the veterinary profession as a Student Veterinary Nurse (my lifelong dream!). In my first practice, a Small Animal Veterinary Hospital, I spent eleven wonderful years. I became a Qualified Veterinary Nurse, progressed to Deputy Head Nurse and finally Head Nurse. This is also where I became one of the first veterinary nurses to become a qualified Student Veterinary Nurse (SVN) Assessor in practice. It was an honour to be able to assist so many others starting out from such a young age just like I did, many of which have since become lifelong friends and of course amazing RVN’s. I eventually flew the nest (a very difficult decision to make!) to enable me to progress my career. I spent another six years or so, working alongside a fabulously talented team developing my skillset further. My role here was Nurse Team Leader and SVN Assessor. I was heavily involved in preparing, this already super, Small Animal Veterinary Practice for Training Practice and Small Animal Veterinary Hospital status which as a team we were extremely proud of.
Moving on, I joined my current practice almost 14 years ago! A new practice which had only been open around nine months which the two practice partners/business owners had been running solely between them! I was employed as an RVN alongside one other. We were now a family of four! It has been an incredible experience to watch the practice (and team) grow over the years and become hugely successful! The journey has been immense. As the practice grew, so did the needs of the business. We became a Training Practice and I became a Clinical Coach to our very first SVN once again. Over the years I was appointed Head Nurse, progressing to a Nursing Manager position, until more recently when I transitioned into my new role, of Practice Manager. I am still not entirely sure how this happened!
What training did you have to do to achieve your qualifications?
My initial Veterinary Nurse training consisted of a mixture of attendance at night school at a local college (RCAT) and day release at Broomfield Agricultural College whilst working full time throughout. The rest was pretty much on the job training, completing the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ (RCVS) Veterinary Nursing Scheme Practical Book along the way (aka ‘the little green book’). Once I had achieved my RCVS Certificate in Veterinary Nursing (after sitting several written exams, practical exams and spot tests) It didn’t stop there, I have always been hungry for knowledge and career progression (I am CPD mad!). I was, and still am to this day, interested in all aspects of Veterinary Nursing, continuing to further my knowledge in all areas possible. Although my focus more recently has mainly consisted of Leadership, Health and Wellbeing and an array of Practice Management topics. Throughout my career I have always been responsible for, and involved in (one way or another) the training, coaching and mentoring of students including work experience, Pre-Veterinary Nurses, Animal Nursing Assistants, Animal/Patient Care Assistants, Student Veterinary Nurses, RVN’s and Vets! In order to do this, I completed the Vetlink TDLB D32 and D33 Assessor Awards as well as Clinical Coach Training. To keep up to date, I have attended many assessor workshops and standardisation events over the years. I have completed Veterinary Healthcare and Nutritional Advisor Programmes, also Practice Health as well as becoming a Pet Health Counsellor and Pet Diabetes Advisor. I commenced my Advanced Surgical Nursing Diploma some 20 years ago, sadly I did not complete the qualification due to circumstances beyond my control at the time. This is of huge regret! It is impossible to list the sheer amount of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and further training which I have completed over the years. The further qualifications I have gained include the Companion Animal Medicines Advisor (C-SQP) and Certificate in Small Animal Nutrition (CertSAN). Since joining Linnaeus just over a year ago, I have completed the MHFA England Adult Mental Health First Aid course (MHFA). I have lots more to learn and will continue my training going forwards which I am sure will support me in my new exciting and challenging role!
What attracted you to a career in the veterinary sector?
From a very young age, it has always been a passion of mine to work with and care for animals. I would say losing a beloved pet at the age of eight years old heavily influenced my chosen career path. I was always keen to attend the local vets with our family dog and chat away to the lovely receptionist asking lots of questions. I am sure I must have driven her mad, but she seemed to humour me at the time! I never wanted to do anything else apart from fulfil my desire to work with animals and ultimately become an RVN, my parents I am sure, will vouch for that!
What are the best things about your role?
The challenge and learning new things every day! I enjoy meeting new people across the wider group and having access to a huge range of specialisms. I am enjoying working with more senior levels of management along with our forever growing awesome Peak Vets family! I love to share my knowledge and assist each individual member of the nursing team with their own career development. For example, it has been extremely rewarding to watch a once inexperienced SVN to flourish over the past few years and become our newly appointed Clinical Nursing Manager here at Peak Vets! Other examples include two of my original SVN’s here at Peak, one of which went off to teach Veterinary Nursing at college and another now managing her own Veterinary Nursing team at a local practice. I am super proud of all of them!
What kind of skills/attributes do you need to be good in your position?
A wide range across the board! To name a few… Leadership and Management skills, Interpersonal skills – excellent people skills! Genuinely caring, patience, approachable, empathetic, a good listener, understanding. Delegation and time management skills (it is impossible to try and do everything yourself!). Verbal and written communication skills, a positive work ethic. Teamwork, problem solver, mediator/conflict resolution skills, professionalism, motivation, staff morale booster, high standards, enthusiasm, cooperative, take charge capabilities, multi-tasking. Detail orientated and focussed, flexible and adaptable, facilitating, encouraging, interest, effort, diplomacy, influencer skills, knowledgeable, confidence! Willingness to learn, take advice and listen (continual self-improvement!). Commitment and dedication, core values, accountability, diligence, perseverance, self-discipline, honesty, reliability, able to make a difference, positivity, fairness, integrity, ethical, compliant, competitive spirit, loyal, open-minded, efficient, logical, organised, engaging, discreet, accepting of and embracing change! And last but not least, a good sense of humour and a nice smile! Of course, this list is not exhaustive!
What advice would you give someone thinking about a career in the veterinary world
I love giving career advice! I would strongly encourage them to follow their dream and offer as much support and guidance that I possibly could. I would advise them to focus on the end goal and work towards it in any way shape or form to get there. Willingness to put the time in, hard work and commitment would most certainly pay off. The effort put in will most definitely be rewarded. There is a lifelong career at the end of it. I would point them in the right direction of where to do their research and encourage lots of work experience. By the time they were ready to apply for a position, they should then have solid background knowledge and understanding of what to expect! It would be worth it! Do it would be my advice!
What are the best things about working at Peak Vets?
Peak Vets is like having an extended family. We have a wonderful team of unique individuals, all of which possess their own skill sets, strengths and experience. We all support and learn from each other no matter how long we may have been there or how qualified we might be. We welcome new ideas and work as a team to provide the best possible care for our clients and their pets – our patients which of course are the heart of everything we do.
What are your aims and aspirations both personally and professionally at Peak Vets?
To continue to do the best of my ability, work hard and hopefully become a successful Practice Manager. I am eager to learn new things (even though some of which are way out of my comfort zone). Luckily there is a huge support network, not only here at Peak but within the whole of Linnaeus and I am sure I will be making the most of it. I would love to have more confidence and to believe in myself, for me this has been a huge leap of faith (I feel like a fish out of water), I just hope with the right support behind me I can pull it off!
What do you do to relax outside work?
Outside of work… That’s a tricky one! I enjoy family life, spending quality time with my partner, family and friends and of course our family pets (two of which were acquired on the job!) It is extremely difficult not to take your work home with you when you work in the veterinary sector. I love travelling to see and experience new places, countryside walks, fresh air and sunshine! Oh, and of course the odd spa day!