What was your most memorable case?
I have had many over the last 30+ years. But one that stands out is a standard bred colt named ‘Laughs’ who in the mid 80s had placed in one of the richest pacing races in the States – The Little Brown Jug. Immediately afterwards he contracted Potomac fever with severe diarrhoea and was sent to the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, where I was a medicine charge nurse. He ended up in the Isolation Unit for 10 months and had colic surgery, testicular abscesses, salmonellosis, laminitis and continued to have diarrhoea for the duration of his stay. He was routinely nasty, and could double barrel you even with his very sore feet… but he could also be very loveable and determined to get better. I had to climb in to his stable through a feeding hatch each time he needed treatments as when entering through the normal stable door I was usually met with ears back and teeth coming at my face. He went back to Canada to start his stud career, and had his own stable block and paddocks as he continued to shed salmonella for many months after going home.
More recently, my favourite was a thoroughbred filly that was hospitalised for the past 7 months with complications from a distal limb fracture repair. She bounced around in a sling for a few months, which took some of the weight off her feet while we treated her for laminitis. She became known as ’The Princess’. There was a certain aura about her as she was classy beyond belief. She knew we were there to help her, and allowed us to care for her and provide for all her needs with no complaints. She has gone home, leaving us with an empty stable where we got used to her creaking about in the sling and chatting in the middle of the night when she wanted more treats.
Where did you do your nursing training?
Initially I did my degree in the US at Harcum College and University of Pennsylvania. I moved to the UK and passed the small animal VN exams in 1996 then worked on the EVN qualifications with a group vets, RCVS and a fellow VN before taking the exams ourselves
What was the BVNA presidential year like?
Incredibly stimulating, exhausting and a privilege all at the same time. I had to work my day job and attend numerous meetings each week as well as do my on call duties at the weekends. I relished being part of the wider VN/Vet network and established many friendships with officers from other representative associations. There is tremendous support out there for the BVNA amongst vets and industry alike.
What advice would you give to someone going into vet nursing?
Explore all the training options and, if possible, do not limit yourself to studying just one discipline. When starting out I didn’t know I was going to work as a small animal nurse, a pharmaceutical toxicology technician and an equine nurse, with a short stint as a Tesco till operator!
How did you become a Christian?
I grew up in a small Methodist church with a group of families who had attended it for generations. It was very typical of small town America, where your Christian faith begins at birth. I attended summer camp every year as a child and teenager and it was there I experienced living my faith on a daily basis and where I recommitted my life to God.
How does your faith affect the way that you work?
I believe in lifestyle Christianity, living as a witness to others. I share my faith on occasion but everyone is very aware of what I stand for and accepts me for who I am…and I regularly pray for my patients when they need a miracle.
How do you achieve a work life balance with such a busy life?
I don’t think I’m very good at this. Some years ago I decreased my hours to 4 days a week, but I can still do a week’s work in just one weekend of being on call.