Samantha Harfield RVN is a vet nurse at Vets Now’s busy Peterborough clinic. Samantha joined in 2021 and went through the highly successful Nursing Edge programme.
It’s an eight-week paid induction, combining online lectures and practical demonstrations in the clinic, that helps qualified veterinary nurses learn all they need to know about life in ECC.
Samantha tells us how it eased her pathway into her exciting new veterinary life.
How did you start in vet nursing?
It was actually a total career change for me as I was originally working in broadcasting. I did the graphics for Racing TV and although I did enjoy it, I could see how things were becoming more automated and thought it’d be a good time to get out. I had always wanted to get into vet nursing anyway, so I persevered and eventually got a role volunteering as a kennel assistant at a practice in Peterborough while I was still freelancing in broadcasting. That led to them taking me on and to me doing my training.
How did that work out?
I was a care assistant for about six months and then they sent me to the College of Animal Welfare in Huntingdon. It had been a few years since I’d been at university, so going back to lectures and essays was a bit strange but I was really passionate and that helped me through it. And the practice was a very busy one, which is good as there was a really varied caseload and I learned a lot very quickly. I qualified as a RVN in March 2020.
What made you want to get into ECC?
Quite a few staff were furloughed during COVID-19 but I was still working and, because we were dealing with emergencies only, I got a taste of seeing more critical patients. My love for doing that kind of veterinary medicine grew and I wanted to learn more.
I've learned so much and been so hands-on with IV's, fluids and lots of other things you don't get to really do in day practice. And there's always chances to learn more.
So, how did you make the move to Vets Now?
As my experience grew, I knew I wanted to try ECC but, to be honest, I think I was too scared to jump straight in. Then I saw the Nursing Edge possibility and I thought that would be the perfect way to ease myself into. ECC is very different to being in day practice and I really don’t think I’d have made the move if I didn’t have all the support I’d want. If you’re not super-confident – and I’d only been qualified just over a year – Nursing Edge can make all the difference.
How did it work for you?
The first week consisted of online lectures, which I did from home, and then into the Peterborough clinic under the supervision of my mentor. I spent six weeks shadowing and it worked really well. There were lots of little things, like learning how to use the lab machines and doing calculations for drugs I hadn’t used before. The back-up of having someone to show you and then you showing them was very reassuring. It took the pressure off.
Did your confidence grow?
Definitely. At first I was a bit wary, but by the end of the six weeks I was much happier that I actually did know more than I thought when I started and I did have the necessary skills. Everyone was so welcoming, and no one ever made me feel stupid for asking a question. In the final week it was a case of them stepping back a bit, still being there if you needed help but really letting you take the lead. It was a lot less scary than I thought it was going to be!
How has it been since you completed Nursing Edge?
The job has been everything I hoped it would be, with a really varied caseload and never knowing what will come through the door. Sometimes you’ll deal with more routine things and then suddenly something very different and challenging will appear. I’ve learned so much and been so hands-on with IV’s, fluids and lots of other things you don’t get to really do in day practice. And there’s always chances to learn more. Some of the girls are preparing to do an ultrasound course and that’s something I’d be keen to do. I love imaging!
And how have you found the work-life balance?
That’s been great. I’ve had more time for walking my two dogs, Border Collie Molly and Cocker Spaniel puppy Finlay, and also for looking after my five-year-old horse, William. When I was working Monday to Friday, I wouldn’t be finished until 7pm and it was hard to have the motivation to do much, especially when it’s dark, cold and rainy. But I’ve loved being able to enjoy their company so much more. I used to spend my half-hour lunchbreak dashing home to let the dogs out, now I can just slow down and appreciate things.