Senior vet nurse gives her take on her career and what she enjoys most about her job

At Vets Now, we’re keen to give everyone a platform to progress.

For example, ambitious vet nurses are supported to become head nurses, and head nurses with aspirations to work at a more senior level are emboldened to take on the role of district manager.

Leah Paskell, 33, is the perfect example of someone who’s taken advantage of this.

She joined Vets Now not long after qualifying as a vet nurse more than a decade ago and now helps run several clinics in the south-east of England.

In this interview, Leah, who is from Rochester, Kent, gives us the lowdown on her career and why she believes vet nurses who want to make the most of their skills should consider working in emergency.

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How did you get into vet nursing?

I’ve always wanted to be a vet nurse. My mum wanted me to go to university but I had other ideas so I went straight to college and went down the NVQ route, which involved working in a day practice. I qualified in 2008 and started working at Vets Now in Gillingham six months later.

What have you done since joining Vets Now?

I spent nearly five years in Gillingham before moving to another out-of-hours clinic but it wasn’t for me. At Vets Now I was doing Schedule 3 procedures and learning how to do FAST scans and stitch-ups, but I didn’t get to do any of that at the other vets, so I left after six months to return to Gillingham as head nurse. I later moved to Sutton before helping set up our Ashford clinic. More recently I worked as a district manager, covering maternity leave, which involved working across several clinics.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love patient care and I love emergencies and I still do clinical shifts regularly. I also enjoy the teaching side of the job and learning from other clinicians. For me, Vets Now is the best company for vet nurses, both in terms of career progression and clinically. I really couldn’t see myself being a nurse anywhere else.

What gives you the most pride?

Some of the nurses we have in Ashford are young and not long qualified and seeing the confidence they have now compared to when they started is just wonderful. There’s often a ceiling in day practice when you get to the level of head nurse but that’s not the case at Vets Now – and that’s good news for everyone who is ambitious.

Image of district manager Leah Paskell for Vets Now article on opportunities for ambitious vet nurses
Leah believes Vets Now is the best company for vet nurses, clinically and in terms of progression

What advice would you give to a vet nurse keen to follow in your footsteps?

Persevere and have the confidence to air your voice. Don’t feel you can’t speak up or say something on behalf of your team or your patients. Be professional but don’t remain quiet if you’re passionate about something and have good reason to speak up. Keep learning and keep asking questions.

What about those looking to move into ECC?

For me, vet nurses who work in ECC have more of a voice because they’re such a vital part of the team. They’re also more respected as professionals for the training and knowledge they have. Younger vets, in particular, really value the nurses they work alongside because they know they can rely on their advice during patient care discussions.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I’d like to continue mentoring nurses and encourage them to do what they trained to do, which I think is bypassed by a lot of practices where their skills just aren’t used enough.

How do you find working out of hours?

I enjoy it more than working days. It suits my lifestyle and gives me a good work-life balance. But it really depends on how you manage your days off. You need to be strict with yourself. Don’t feel guilty about not answering the phone or checking emails when you’ve finished your shift and make sure you find the time to switch off.

Image of Leah Paskell for Vets Now article on opportunities for ambitious vet nurses
Leah believes vet nurses are highly respected in ECC as they are such a vital part of the team

Is there enough support in place for vet nurses?

There is a comprehensive induction process and you also have to do shadow shifts which are really beneficial. On top of that, there are CPD events all the time, there’s access to online courses and funding to do certificates like Cert VN ECC. There’s also always someone to talk to. Some clinics have WhatsApp groups which is great, because there’s always someone awake at 4am to provide advice.

Are you given autonomy to make important decisions?

Yes, in one of our clinics we’ve adapted the shift pattern so vets and vet nurses who work full time don’t have to work weekend days. This was trialled after several people said they were struggling with the switch between weekend days and night shifts. Now we have a variety of weekend roles available that new mums or perhaps those wanting to give ECC a try might like to pick up.

Would you recommend weekend shifts as a stepping stone into ECC?

Weekends are often busier than midweek so these shifts do tend to give a good insight into the role. There are also more people around, so you’ve got that additional support if you ever need it.