Case Study: Jessica Atkinson Brown
Courses undertaken at The College of Animal Welfare
FdSc Veterinary Nursing (Royal Veterinary College) (2013 intake)
Jessica Atkinson Brown has completed the FdSc Veterinary Nursing programme at the Royal Veterinary College (delivered in partnership with The College of Animal Welfare), having graduated in 2016. We caught up with Jess and asked her to share some of her experiences about her time on the course.
I’m Jess and I have just graduated with distinction in the foundation degree Veterinary Nursing at the Royal Veterinary College. I have been studying at the RVC for 3 years in order to gain my qualification. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time gaining the knowledge and practical skills of a veterinary nurse.
The course alternates between theory blocks, when students are based at university, and then placement blocks, based in veterinary practices. This had positives and negatives. It allowed me to learn the theory before going into veterinary practices and put this knowledge to the test, but it did involve a lot of moving around! Intertwined through this are three main exam aspects that we have to pass in order to qualify: Exams/Assignments, OSPVEs (practical exams) and the NPL (Nursing Progress Log) which is a list of tasks we must be competent in.
Our theory blocks cover a whole range of topics such as; anatomy, pharmacology, radiography and anaesthesia to name but a few. Some topics proved more challenging than others, I particularly did not enjoy learning the physics behind radiography…I’m still not sure I know the entire process that happens when you click that button and the image appears!
Despite this, the RVC provided lots of support and tried to include as many practicals as possible to ensure we graduated with a sufficient overview and understanding to be able to practice safely…ultimately isn’t this a job that we will never stop learning in?
I have visited a number of veterinary practices throughout my training. The College of Animal Welfare has been very helpful in assisting in securing different veterinary practices for each of the placement blocks. However if you wish to stay at the same placement this can also be arranged. Personally, I wanted to see as many practices as possible so I could see the diversity of veterinary medicine and decide which aspects I preferred and if I wanted to work in referral or first opinion.
The two placements which really stand out are Pennard Vets, Sevenoaks and the Queen Mother Referral Hospital, Potters Bar. I learnt so much at Pennard Vets Sevenoaks, they have an excellent team of vets and nurses and I felt I really became a part of the team providing the best possible care to our patients and was able to scrub in and assist with a number of operations.
It was here that my interests in anaesthesia and emergency and critical care started and this has really grown and developed throughout my final placement in the QMH. I really enjoy the fast pace of thinking on your feet and the monitoring of critical patients at the QMH. My nursing skills were really tested here, but working alongside some of the best vets and nurses in the country I expected this!
One thing I have really learnt during my time studying is that, regardless of the route of study taken to become a RVN, we all come out with the basic skills required to nurse animals, but this is just the beginning! There are so many options and pathways for veterinary nurses to choose from. I have therefore decided to stay on for a 4th year at RVC and gain the BSc as I feel this will help to further my career and allow me to specialise into one of my areas of interest…which one is yet to be decided!
I have been asked to give some advice for those considering studying veterinary nursing at the RVC, I feel the only thing I can say is…GO FOR IT! If someone had told me 4 years ago that I would have been able to assist in caring for patients that were placed on a ventilator in ICU or co-monitor anaesthesia using neuromuscular blockades, I would have thought that impossible and yet here I am…and you could be too.