Rachael Bacon RVN is Vets Now’s Nursing Development Lead.
Rachael previously worked at the busy Gillingham clinic before taking up the newly created full-time role within the past year. Rachael tells us about her vet nursing life and what’s involved in helping ensure others have all the support they need to face the future.
Was vet nursing always your career plan?
Yes, but I was 16 when I left school and couldn’t do the vet nursing course at Hadlow College until I was 17, so I did an animal management course first. Because it was a passion of mine and because of an inspiring lecturer, I ended up doing a degree in Animal Conservation and Biodiversity. After that, I went on a year-long trip across south-east Asia where I volunteered on a dog neutering project in India. I enjoyed that taste of working within a veterinary environment and was lucky enough that a student nurse place came up at a local first opinion practice in Sevenoaks, Kent when I returned home.
And how was that taste of clinic life as you did your training?
They did out-of-hours as well as daytime work and, although I’d never have chosen it, I absolutely loved the emergency side of it. You were working with a smaller team, you never knew what you were going to get and you really felt like you were making a difference. Qualifying in 2013, I also had a keen interest in critical care and wound management. That led to opportunities, such as a certificate in wound management, audit delivery and lecturing.
What led you to move on?
I had our first son in 2015, and when I was ready to come back in 2016, I knew I didn’t want to return full-time and miss out on our son growing up. I saw Vets Now had a back-shift nurse position in Gillingham, and it seemed like the perfect option. The flexibility I was shown in changing my shifts and the feeling that I was being looked after was amazing. They were so supportive of my needs as a parent, appreciating that’s what had to be my priority. When I got pregnant with my second son in 2017, it was all about congratulating me and offering me the support I needed during pregnancy.
It was such a weight off my shoulders, and I really knew then Vets Now were the company for me.
How would you describe working at Gillingham?
Just as all being one team. The team are so supportive and appreciative of your nursing skills. All the nurses at Gillingham get to be hands-on, and you’re always a part of the clinical conversation and decision-making process.
You really feel you are utilising your knowledge. I started doing a senior support role alongside my back shifts and weekends, supporting our PNM, after which my District Manager Leah Paskell suggested I take part in a voluntary position reviewing the content of our ACA Development Programme. I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside Racheal Marshall, our Head of Clinical Nursing, and that experience served me well when a Head of Clinical Support role came up. The role was partly from home, with the rest of the time in the clinic. Working alongside Racheal, Craig Mcphee and Jonathan Luckett, we released the ACA Development Programme last year.
Tell us about the Nursing Development Lead role you have now.
I work closely with Heather Kirkness, our current Head of Clinical Nursing, with Racheal on maternity leave. It’s about assisting with the delivery of clinical standards through delivery of development. For example, recently, we have been looking at nursing benchmarking as well as ongoing nurse development. I also work closely with the fantastic Learning and Development team to build and update the resources. As the role is new, there has been a lot of evaluation of what we’ve done previously to see where we go next.
What are your priorities?
Initially, it was the relaunch and delivery of the Nursing Edge programme, which has supported 23 nurses into the world of ECC. Now it’s really focusing on the long-term development of our RVNs and ACAs. As the role develops, I’d see an ever-greater emphasis on what the nurses can do to further their careers.
I'm so passionate about seeing RVNs succeed in their roles. I'm a real people person, and it's been great getting a chance to speak to so many of the different team members and learn how different clinics work.
What challenges have you seen?
I think the pandemic really affected development as it was often about just keeping on top of the caseload, which was so high. But now we’re coming out of that crazy time, we can really focus on how to support our nurses, not only to develop further but also to be confident and really enjoy their roles. For me it’s about providing RVNs and ACAs with experiences and opportunities to thrive. We have fantastic RVNs and ACAS within our company and want to use their knowledge and share it between individuals and teams. That’s what drives me.
And are you still happy with your work-life balance in your new role?
My kids are seven and four, and this came up just as my youngest was going to school, so it was just the right time. I have always felt the company understands and supports being a parent. Everyone just gets it. You don’t feel judged as a parent, which takes the stress away.
I kind of thought Vets Now would be something on the side of being a parent. I never imagined loving working for a company as much as I do. I really believe in our values and our ethos. When I joined, I wouldn’t have expected to be doing this role in six years’ time, but I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in many projects and the Certificate in ECC. My advice to any nurse would be to get involved in projects and take opportunities where you can as you never know where it might take you.
So, do you feel your own progression may be a motivation for others?
Hopefully – as someone who started on backshifts and has achieved more than I ever thought I could – it shows it is possible. Nurses are at the very centre of our teams. Development is a massive part of nursing progression, and we really encourage all our nurses to utilise the skills and knowledge they have been trained to use.