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A Day in the Life of a Veterinary Nurse......Before Lockdown!

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It’s 7.30am and I’m starting my day. Which means breakfast time for our in-patients! As I’m sure you can imagine, our patients are desperate for their feed, so after a quick check of the in-patient board for any medication needed I can feed, helpfully the nursing team make up feeds the night before to help in the mornings. This tends to be my favourite time of day, just me and the horses. I find I can really get to know your four legged best friends, spending some time bonding with them when mucking out and grooming. Today one of our patients is having surgery under general anaesthetic so unfortunately no breakfast! It’s hard to resist their sad faces and shouts when they are off the breakfast list but unfortunately it’s required, thankfully they tend to settle after 5 minutes. 

Depending on the day of the week, Cara or Lynsey will have arrived along with the vets by 8.30am meaning we can get started with surgery preparation. Today is a Monday so it’s Cara helping. The patient has had a catheter placed the day before by the on call vet and nurse and the surgical site clipped and cleaned to reduce time spent under GA. The horse is thoroughly groomed, feet picked out and tail bandaged up. Pre-medication is given and the horse’s mouth washed out. I take the horse to the knockdown box where they are given sedation and then handed over to Rebecca who is the anaesthetist for the day. Myself and Cara quickly get changed into scrubs before I go and help Hugh and Rebecca induce anaesthesia. We do this as safely as we can, using a crush door to help us guide the horse to the ground. But it still takes three of us to safely induce the horse and guide them to the ground. Once the horse is down Cara and I quickly wrap the feet in plastic boot covers to help keep the theatre as clean as possible for the surgery. To help speed things along I will be scrubbed in to assist Hugh with the surgery by passing him various instruments throughout and holding a retractor here or there. I really enjoy this part of my job, it’s helped me gain a lot of knowledge about the anatomy and structures within a horse and it keeps my brain engaged. I’d like to think I’m starting to get to a point where I can anticipate Hughs’s next move but I’m not sure he would agree! Cara takes the role of theatre nurse, meaning she has to set up and operate the arthroscopy machine, as well as helping Rebecca at her end if needed. As soon as surgery is finished and the horse is in recovery, Cara and I start the big clean up. It’s a two man job, the surgical kit needs cleaned and packed to be sterilised as well as theatre needing tidied and disinfected ready for the next time. All the while, we can smell Patty’s yummy cooking for lunch drifting through, fuelling us to work a little quicker! 

As soon as theatre is cleaned up I grab some lunch and think about what else I need to do over the afternoon. Thankfully on the appointment front it’s quiet in the clinic, meaning I can leave Cara to care for our surgery horse while I check stock levels and get some ordering done. Once I’ve done my various orders I go and check on our surgery horse, he’s a bit shell shocked but comfortable and happy. I go out and pick some grass for him for the evening to try and help get his guts moving properly again. I go and check the diary for the following day and write up a plan for the nursing team. This list can vary from lots of appointments to lots of house keeping in the practice! Tomorrow’s list has a mix of both along with a yard’s poo samples arriving, so time is blocked off for one us to work our way through, in between helping the vets with patients and caring for our in-patients. No two days are the same, and we are always kept on our toes. 

My final task before heading home at 4pm….patting our patients and saying goodbye to them all! Although I do try to remain unbiased, it’s hard not to have favourites! Especially when you have some patients that stay with us for long periods of time, how can you not create a close bond with a horse that stays for 3 months?! I say my goodbyes to the humans too and head off home. It wasn’t the busiest day but it was productive. And having Cara and Lynsey to help makes such a huge difference. I wouldn’t get through a day without the team!