Colchester Vets Now nurse Gemma Rudd charts her journey from growing up on a dairy farm to excelling in ECC veterinary medicine.
Growing up on a dairy farm, Gemma Rudd was always surrounded by animals, from cows and chickens to numerous cats.
It was therefore inevitable, she reckons, that she’d end up working with animals in some shape or form.
And now that’s precisely what she’s doing now as a vet nurse at Vets Now’s busy Colchester clinic.
“I pretty much knew at school I wanted to be in the veterinary world, and I chose nursing as I felt more at home with the care side,” said RVN Gemma, who lives in Essex.
“I did work experience at a local vet practice and then got a job there while going to Writtle University College as soon as I left school at 17.
“Because of my background, gory things and stressful situations didn't bother me at all. I'd seen my dad birth calves and have to deal with emergencies with the cows."
“It felt natural and as I’m an animal lover, animals seem to like me back.”
Gemma qualified in 2011 and continued to work at the small animal practice before helping a vet friend set up another clinic.
She moved on from there to a referral hospital and discovered her love for emergency medicine.
“It wasn’t something I had really thought was for me as a young RVN,” said Gemma.
“But there was an ICU unit at the hospital and that was my favourite place to work. I loved being in that intense environment and looking after really poorly animals.
“I was there for three years, working nights and seeing a really high and challenging caseload. The ECC clinicians took time to explain the conditions and the care and I learned so much.
“So, I started looking at the options for ECC medicine and that’s obviously what led me to Vets Now.”
A shorter commute, better money and working in the veterinary environment she knew she wanted to be a part of all played a part in her decision to join Vets Now in 2021.
Gemma had actually started doing her 18-month ECC Certificate with Vets Now shortly before, in October 2020. She is due to complete it in March.
“I think my referral hospital time has actually proved very useful,” explained Gemma. “I had seen cases there that related to many of the topics covered in the Certificate.
“If I had come straight from the day practice, then personally I think I might have struggled going straight into the job without doing the course.
“It has also refreshed me on so many things I had learned a long time ago, as well as teaching me a lot of new stuff.
“I think it's such a good course for anyone getting into ECC medicine. It prepares you brilliantly for those situations you might find yourself in in the middle of the night.”
Gemma took to clinic life at Colchester like a duck to water and has no regrets at all at making the move.
“The team here have been great, so friendly and welcoming,” said Gemma.
“During my first week I shadowed staff after being given a really thorough introduction, and I feel I have slotted right in.
“You can have nights when you’re only seeing a few patients and others where it’s all go. But you always feel supported and that there is someone on hand to ask if you want to check something.
“I thrive on the pressure and I’ve been told I’m quite a calming influence. You need to be a cool and collected sort of person in ECC and I think my experience, as well as my upbringing, really helps.”
The nightshifts involved is something Gemma finds work perfectly for her.
“When I did day clinic I suffered very badly from insomnia,” said Gemma. “But I don't get that at all working nights. I find I function much better at night and I sleep much better during the day.
“I like working as part of a smaller team at nights and love that you can be so much more hands-on with the patients and have more learning opportunities.”
Gemma’s rolling rota gives her plenty of time off and much more of a work-life balance than she ever experienced in day practice.
Having come into the profession to work with animals and make a difference to them, Gemma says she’s relishing the cases she has seen since joining Vets Now.
And just being hands-on is still a joy.
“When you get an animal in that’s not been eating for days and six hours later you’ve managed to get them to have some food, it’s such a euphoric moment,” said Gemma.
“Just that one little bit of chicken makes everything worth it and you know they are on the road to recovery.”