Why I’m Quitting Being a Veterinary Nurse…

After years of hard work, long hours and experiencing every emotion under the sun, I’ve decided that I don’t want to be a Veterinary Nurse any more. Some of you may not even be aware of my job, in fact, I used to hate calling it just a job because it genuinely felt like a career, something that I was completely dedicated to. My first few years as a Veterinary Nurse were interesting for many reasons; I, of course, learned so much about my animal patients both medically and behaviourally, but I also learned a lot about people too. The clinic I worked and studied in was small, lacking in diversity but from the outside seemed relatively welcoming. The standards were high and at times, unrealistic – there was a lot of pressure and responsibility right from the beginning. I have some fond memories of my studies and first year, but seven years into the profession I have yet to see the change I was hoping for, and I sadly do not have the energy to front it.

They pushed me more and more each day until I had severe anxiety and would have attacks on the central line…

The clinical director of my first clinic thought the Student Nurses were the help; we washed their mountains of cups from the marathon tea drinking that occurred in the upstairs office, we worked long hours, every second weekend (including Sundays), we did the job of three people each, we were harrassed via email for forgetting to put some food in the kennels (he hated the stairs as much as he hated paying people a decent wage), he wrote violent and abusive messages on the staff whiteboard, he didn’t pay on time – but you still had to say thank you when it was late. The list is long but luckily my time there wasn’t (although at the time it felt like I was going to retire there). Despite the lack of diversity (I was the only non white member of staff) I don’t believe the bullying  was due to my race, that’s not to say that I didn’t witness and experience racial microaggressions and lashings of white privilege on an almost daily basis – like, who the actual fuck feeds their dogs veal from Harrods? There were comments about my hair and assumptions based on my culture, but the shitty behaviour was directed at my fellow nursing student who was white, and so it was clear these people were just cruel to everyone beneath them.

Me as a student nurse with my old veterinary clinic’s practice cat.

It was clear they didn’t like me from the start, despite me being everything that they wanted – an eager 18-year-old on minimum wage. They pushed me more and more each day until I had severe anxiety and would have attacks on the central line as I got nearer and nearer to the clinic. Once, I suffered a jaw injury and was prescribed strong medication for the pain – although it didn’t agree with me, it gave me the idea to start taking a different type of intense pain relief even when I wasn’t experiencing any pain – it was the only thing that calmed my nerves and stopped me from wanting to throw up for 8 hours a day. I found text messages between colleagues on clinic iPhones bitching about me; not that I could do anything about it, one of them was the practice managers husband. He threatened to make the student nurses clean with toothbrushes, work with the minimum break, take away our sick pay and make us work nights to teach us a lesson. Once he sent me a 3-page email on my day off, complaining that I didn’t fill in a form properly the day before and calling me useless- I was so stressed that I forgot to close my bag, and immediately had my phone stolen causing me to have a breakdown in Westfield. Outnumbered and worn down, I couldn’t find it in me to leave in the middle of my studies, so I reluctantly stayed. I drank wine most nights to cope with the depressive mood I was in – it was obvious that I was underpaid and overworked but they didn’t care. I stuck with it throughout my studies, but after three years I got made a local connection, and I decided to hand in my notice and move to this new clinic as soon I received my exam results in the post. The irritated look on my bosses face when I handed in my notice early was almost worth the abuse.

It’s hard to admit that something you’ve worked incredibly hard for is no longer bringing you joy…

It’s been nearly four years since I moved to a different practice – it’s closer to home and over double the salary. There is still a lack of diversity – something I witnessed on a larger scale at a yearly veterinary conference. I don’t think I saw a single non-white veterinary professional on my level. For a while I was keen to bring attention to this issue, I definitely bring up race issues when relevant in my workplace – luckily one of my colleagues is a person of colour and we’re both quick to notice the microaggressions clients inflict. There are support groups for ethnic minorities within the profession, but I still feel so powerless – I’m tired of dealing with race issues in my personal life, and now I have to fight it at work too? I’m tired. Despite being qualified and having more responsibility, the pressure decreased almost overnight. As my new clinic is growing, there are definitely some cracks with how I’m being treated by management, and I won’t pretend this isn’t a factor in my choice to hang up my stethoscope but it’s not the only one. As I’m approaching 7 years in the profession, my tolerance for the tasks I’m willing to do, and how much effort I’m willing to put in has decreased. I’m not prepared to do every certificate and diploma under the sun to advance or move to a hospital environment to prove my skills and worth. I don’t want to travel around the country going to talks and reading up on medical conditions to get my CPD allowance. I don’t say any of this lightly, at first I considered I was just lazy, lacking in motivation and settling in my role because actually, it’s hard to admit that something you’ve worked incredibly hard for is no longer bringing you joy. I actually got my certificate in feline nursing to see if it would bring the spark back to the outlook on my career. I found it rather insightful but that’s as far as my interest went.My cat Sapphire “helping” me study for my feline nursing certificate.

My role definitely isn’t easy, it’s both physically and mentally exhausting. I have days where I come home wanting to cry because it’s been so sad and frustrating, or angry because my clients decided they all wanted to move mad within the same 60 minutes. I am often running around the practice, up and down the stairs; nursing patients, assisting the veterinary surgeon, triaging,  monitoring anaesthesia in the operating theatre, taking radiographs, answering phones, consulting – sometimes with no lunch break or leaving on time. No day is the same, and an emergency can drop on you any time – ironically, I don’t even mind that part that much. I can handle the unknown nature of my job, but on a whole; I am so tired. Despite my wage being out of the ordinary, generally nurses don’t get paid what they deserve, and whether I like to admit it or not; it’s having an impact on my physical health. On top of that, I don’t feel challenged anymore – I’m not the best nurse in the country by any means – but my passion for veterinary nursing no longer outweighs the poor future prospects, tolerating the lack of diversity, or inevitable low pay limit. 

we only regret the things we never tried to do…

I’d been toying with going to university for a while now – over a year in fact. I wanted to study Law when I was in college, but none of my lecturers encouraged or supported me in my studies so I left it as a fantasy that later contributed to my addiction with “How To Get Away With Murder”. Becoming a barrister is a young, rich and free time in abundance persons game that i have no business trying to play, but a Law degree can open the doors to so much more. This blog has allowed me to explore and develop my interests and hobbies into passions; you may see me discussing veganism and cruelty-free beauty, but the research within that includes legislation, the environment, and animal rights. I enjoy treating sick animals and nursing them back to health, but I also think my skills could be suited to the legal aspect of animal suffering. I discovered an organisation comprised of lawyers and other professionals interested in protecting animals through the law; It was the first time I’d seen the term Animal Law coined, and I knew that that coming across this organisation was not an accident. Animal Law in itself is not a career but often shows up within other parts of the law like human rights and environmental law, which I also have a huge interest in.  I am now fully enrolled to study Law, but as a responsible adult in London, I can’t just fuck off to university and live for free – I have rent and other financial commitments, so my study is from a distance as I continue to work (yes my blog title is click baitey af!) but luckily very supported. I’m absolutely terrified as it’s been so long since I studied so intensively, however, some of you have been incredibly kind offering me advice and help when my studies commence so I’m feeling optimistic. My feelings of guilt have now converted to excitement and fear (of failure but that’s a different topic for a different day!).  I deserve to work a job or have a career that I’m not only proud of but is also enjoyable to me; life is short and all of that but ultimately we only regret the things we never tried to do.

Me the morning after working overtime on an emergency ft dark circles but still looking cute.

My law studies officially start in October, and how I’ll manage my hobbies, blogging, working and studying, I…have no idea. I asked for a challenge so maybe I shouldn’t complain but regardless, it has been a few years since I was this excited for my professional future and I can’t wait to get started. My emails are always open to anyone who would be kind enough to give me any advice if they’re studying or have studied Law, working in anything related to the areas of law I’m interested in or has changed career.

Until next time,

Demi – Colleen x