Mum with more than 20 years’ experience is determined to improve diversity and inclusion within vet nursing
Nathalie Hack is a roving vet nurse working across seven Vets Now clinics.
Belgian-born but now living in Luton, she admits she enjoys the variety brought by seeing patients in different parts of the country and the challenge of working on the front line of emergency and critical care.
Nathalie says her flexible shift pattern also provides her with the work-life balance she needs to be there for her son and daughter, Sebastian and Amelie, and policeman husband Sylvester.
In this Q&A, Nathalie explains what motivated her to join Vets Now and how her role has developed to include helping find the next generation of vet nurse students from BAME backgrounds.
Why become a vet nurse in the UK?
I’ve always wanted to work with animals but there were few opportunities in Belgium. I went to vet school for three years but it’s very different to the UK and it was just a bad experience. I was interested in vet nursing but that wasn’t something you could do there so I came here aged 21. It was a different culture and language and it was hard to get the experience I needed before going to college. But I got a job, trained and qualified in 1999.
And what’s been your experience since then?
You name it, I’ve done it all! I worked in small and big practices, was head nurse at an orthopaedic referral centre and then I was a theatre nurse at the Royal College for many years. That was a passion for me, and I got a Diploma in Advanced Nursing (Surgical). I pretty much lived in scrubs until one day they needed a hand in the emergency department. I thought I’d hate it, but something clicked in me and I really took to it. That must have been 16 or 17 years ago and I’ve never lost that love of emergency medicine, the thrill of not knowing what is going to come through the door. I went on to get my emergency and critical care qualification, Cert VN ECC, when I joined Vets Now.
What brought you to Vets Now?
I had a break when I had my kids and when I was looking to get back into nursing a friend who had joined Vets Now said he thought it might be something I’d like. I still remember the date of my first shift as a locum at Barton-Le-Clay, February 4, 2012, because halfway through I knew it was for me. At the Royal College there was always lots of people around, but here there was a small team and I felt that I could step up and do it myself. I gained so much more confidence.
Have you had the right training and support?
Oh, absolutely. You’re never stuck on your own with no one to turn to. The training is excellent and through working in various clinics I have made so many good friends among my colleagues. I’m part of lots of WhatsApp groups and if I put up a question about a case, I get so much help. There is always back-up.
How do the shifts fit in with family life?
I was a locum and then I worked weekends, became a senior nurse and then principal nurse manager. As a mum of young kids, work-life balance is so important, and I’d try and arrange my shifts around my husband’s police shifts. I loved having little afternoon naps with my daughter when she was young. I’d have found it much harder doing 9am to 5pm in a daytime practice.
What led you to your current roving nurse role?
I was principal nurse manager in Luton for a few years but then I had a break. Sometimes you think the grass is greener somewhere else and with the kids a bit older I went back to day practice as a deputy head nurse in a busy referral centre. I knew it was a big mistake by the second day. I tried a return to theatre nursing and found that wasn’t right either. I started doing shifts back at Vets Now and when this new roving nurse role came up, I jumped at it. I’m so pleased I took it up.
Which clinics do you work in and why do you like going between different places?
The clinics I cover are High Wycombe, Guildford, Farnham, Hemel Hempstead, Barton-le-Clay, Reading and Staines. While before I may have been a little apprehensive about going to another clinic, it’s really boosted my confidence and I feel I know the teams and where everything is.
I just like seeing the people, especially if it has been a few weeks since I last did a shift. I get on so well with everyone that there’s a real social side to it. I never leave on time as I’m always catching up.
What’s your working week like?
I do weekends mainly — I’m older now so I’m really not bothered about Friday nights out anymore — with some nights during the week when it suits. I enjoy triaging the animals when they come in and liaising with the vets. And I love the Sunday day shifts when there’s a different dynamic and there may be more time for putting in IV catheters or doing X-rays. It’s so rewarding and just when you think you might have seen it all, in will come a really interesting and different case.
Why did you become involved in the Diversity and Inclusion Group at Vets Now?
When I first came to the UK wanting to be a vet nurse, I very much felt like an outsider. Things have moved on, but I remember having my qualifications translated into English and one employer told me he wasn’t interested in them. There was also a reluctance to send me to college as they didn’t think I’d pass because I was foreign. I think that actually gave me a bigger drive to prove myself and I’ve taken that on — if I can do this, you can do this.
Why is embedding a culture of diversity and inclusion within our teams important to you?
We want more people from different backgrounds and from all ethnicities to consider a career as a vet or vet nurse. I love that Vets Now have so many different nationalities working here and finding out their languages and cultures. There is a big focus on attracting people from BAME backgrounds and that’s so welcome. The veterinary profession, along with many others, needs to be more representative. My husband is originally from the Caribbean and when he was in the army, they used him as a poster boy to help recruitment, so I’m happy that I’m doing my bit to broaden inclusion here.
You have 31 letters after your name, do you still like to advance your knowledge?
I’m one of those people who enjoys studying. I love cats so I did a diploma in advanced feline nursing and I’m now doing an advanced course in feline behaviour. After each one my husband says surely it must be my last!
Does an ECC vet nurse role sound right for you? Nursing Edge, our eight-week induction programme, could be the first step into an incredible career. With its combination of online lectures, practical skills training and mentoring work in your relevant clinic, Nursing Edge covers all you need to know to thrive in your new role as an ECC vet nurse.
Learn more about Nursing Edge and apply here.