2 August 2022
DIWP Role Models – Jesle Varu
“Why me?” is the question I asked myself when Alex Taylor (President of the BVNA) invited me to be a role model for the Veterinary Nurse (VN) Futures Diversity, Inclusion and Widening Participation Working Group (DIWP). As I write this blog, I am still wondering the same really!
My first task for the DIWP was being on the panel for a Veterinary Nurse awareness month webinar titled ‘Welcome to our World: A Diverse Career in Veterinary Nursing’, with many other talented VNs. Being a part of that webinar has helped me massively to write this blog, looking back at why I chose this career, my achievements so far, the challenges we face as VNs and why diversity, inclusion and widening participation is so important.
- Graduated as an RVN from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in 2017
- Completed the BSc (Hons) in 2018 and completed my dissertation on wildlife nursing
- Gained the Vets Now Emergency and Critical Care certificate in 2021
- Currently enrolled on the Advanced Programme for Small Mammals course
- Currently a Senior RVN at Goddard Vet Group’s Wanstead Veterinary Hospital (WVH), a first and second opinion 24-hour emergency hospital in East London. I have been at WVH for 6 years now and my role as a Senior RVN involves overseeing ward nursing and inpatient care, while also still getting to enjoy other areas of nursing, such as charge nursing, emergency and critical care, client care, clinical coaching, mentorship and routine and emergency theatre nursing and anaesthesia.
- Recently joined the Goddard Training Department and Nursing College as a Training Coordinator part-time working on in-house CPD, reviewing protocols and teaching in the level two Veterinary Nursing Assistants (VNA) course. I hope to build on this experience and eventually undertake a teaching qualification (good luck to my future students…).
Why veterinary nursing?
This, and also ‘why not become a vet?’, were questions asked early in my career and way before I was even offered a place at the RVC. Obviously, I loved animals and wanted to work with them, but I knew the VN world and community was growing and that it was a profession which involved a holistic practice. I liked the idea of being in a career which has a mix of caring, medical, scientific and teaching elements, where I could be practical and offer hands on care and treatment to my patients.
I love the variety involved with being an RVN. At WVH we have such a diverse team of VNs, Veterinary Surgeons, VNAs, client support staff and management, and the hospital offers a space for everyone to find and highlight their passions and encourages us to do so.
My greatest achievement so far
Over the years my passion for wildlife has grown in the veterinary environment and I was really proud when this was recognised by the BVNA and I was invited to present at their Congress in 2021. I gave two talks based on my articles published in the Veterinary Nursing Journal in 2020/2021; one on wildlife legislation and one discussing my nursing model of care ‘The Wildlife Requirements Model’ made with Hilary Orpet (my claim to fame). It was a fantastic experience to meet likeminded people, and especially to have people come up to me and ask questions at the end which took me by surprise!
I have been invited again for the 2022 Congress to discuss wildlife patient care studies and transfusion medicine; another interest of mine. Both presentations are not due until September but writing this blog now reminds me that I need to make a start on them!
The challenges faced by the VN community
I feel like it wouldn’t be right not to discuss some of the significant challenges which are shared across the whole VN community. No career is perfect of course but there are some significant challenges which need to be addressed.
It can be difficult to balance work and life because, even with thorough planning, work can take unexpected turns. Burnout is real and can affect any VN. Over the years I have learned that to have a sustainable career as a VN, it is important to remember to step back to have a moment to yourself for proper self-care and mental wellness.
We were asked in the DIWP webinar ‘what advice would you give to someone going into the same career as you?’ and to be honest at first my mind was completely blank. However, after a particularly rough Sunday charge nursing, I knew what I would say:
‘If you are in a situation at work which has spiralled and become overwhelming, just remember to look after and prioritise those involved. This is likely the patient, yourself, your team (check in on them!) and the client. Kits to pack and notes to write can wait a bit.’
Where is veterinary nursing going in the next 5-10 years?
During the DIWP webinar we unfortunately ran out of time so didn’t get to discuss this question (which I was disappointed about as I was looking forward to hearing everyone’s predictions). I think that even in my six years of being in the VN world we are moving away from being ‘just’ a veterinary nurse or the ‘assistant to the veterinary surgeon’, but instead becoming professionals in our own right with our own identity.
When I walked through the door of my first placement six years ago, people were always surprised when I said I was the student veterinary nurse and not the veterinary surgeon. This never happens now which may be a sign of change in the diversity of the profession. I talk a little about diversity below and I hope the profession will continue to become more diverse.
Education of VNs pre- and post-graduation is increasing with the variety with topics of ECC, behaviour, nutrition, exotics, education, anaesthesia, dentistry, transfusion medicine, oncology. I expect this will continue, with many more with roles to match! This adds more niches and areas for individuals to focus on, but also allows VNs to become what we call at WVH ‘all-rounders’, experiencing a variety of nursing day-to-day.
Diversity, inclusion and widening participation
Recently photographers came to WVH to get resource material for the RCVS and I commented that they should point the camera my way as I tick quite a few diversity boxes…
Just joking of course, DIWP is a serious topic and I was more than happy to take part to highlight growing diversity in the VN profession. The photographers did not start and stop with me, they took photos of people of different skin colours, ethnic origins, genders, sexualities, heights, people with piercings, people with tattoos and those outside the VN team to showcase the amazing diverse team which WVH has to offer. You probably will have seen this picture being used everywhere:
Not many Indians go into the veterinary profession but I was met with the biggest support and guidance from my dad, mum and sister. My mum in particular became a huge fan after she saw how much my extended family said how proud they were of me for following my childhood dream. A career as a VN was certainly different from the usual pharmacy and accounting routes the Asian community generally pursue (which was my mum’s initial suggestion when I was growing up – thankfully I ignored her!).
I have never faced discrimination within the veterinary community (my friends would never let that happen anyway) and I am very grateful for that, though I appreciate not everyone has that experience. The biggest challenge for me has always been the imposter syndrome I feel. Even now I still get those thoughts of ‘you got there because you’re a man’ or ‘you got there because you are brown and stand out’, not because of my hard work or abilities. Was I anxiety-ridden when giving my talks at the BVNA Congress? Of course I was, my brain was telling me I didn’t belong there. However, these intrusive thoughts just push me to work harder on my career and showcase my nursing skills, to prove that it’s about who I am and not what I look like.
By increasing diversity in the profession, the public can become more aware of the VN world. With having more diverse role models for people wanting to become a VN, people from different backgrounds will bring different qualities and skills into the job and community. We tend to forget the goal is for the VN community to be diverse AND inclusive! I am excited to see how the veterinary community develops and (hopefully) continues to improve on DIWP throughout my career.
Whilst here I would like to shoutout my work besties (Chloe, Amie and Megan), university besties (Danielle, Sarah, Amy and James) and partner (Liam)!