Dear Reader

1985. The year in which Mohammed Fayed bought Harrods, petrol cost £1.88 a gallon, the film Back to the Future became a box office hit, and Lewis Hamilton and Wayne Rooney were born.

It was certainly a momentous year for the veterinary nursing profession. Rita Hinton was its president and the association had reverted to the title of the British Veterinary Nursing Association, having dropped the hated term Auxiliaries.

1985 also saw the publication of the first issue of the Veterinary Nursing Journal. So as this year is the 25th anniversary of our journal, we shall be running a series of features in recognition of this annus auspicious! But we would like you all to be involved.

So have a look through those shoe boxes and photograph albums and see if you can find some pictures that we can publish. And while you are rummaging, see whether any other 1985 veterinary nursing memorabilia turn up – exam papers, certificates – or maybe you have an anecdote to share?

There is a well known quotation, attributed to the French journalist, Alphonse Karr: ‘Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose’, which roughly translates into ‘The more things change, the more they are the same’. This phrase rang particularly true as I leafed through the closely typewritten pages of that very first edition of the VNJ. There were clinical articles, a report from Council, details of courses, and branch reports from no fewer than seven different parts of the country!

Membership of the BVNA cost the princely sum of £14 if you were a qualified VN, and £8 if you were a trainee; and the following Classified advertisement appeared.

TRAINEE VETERINARY NURSE REQUIRED Starting salary £60 per week. 4 weeks holiday per annum. Lunch and Uniforms provided. College fares and fees paid. 9.15 to 6pm, Mon — Fri. One Sat & Sunday morning in four. Bank Holidays mornings only.

There was also a strident two-page article from a veterinary surgeon who, amongst many things, wrote: ‘Qualified Veterinary Nurses in recent ads in the (Veterinary) Record are being offered salaries (where money is mentioned at all) which suffer badly by comparison with almost everything … Until the Veterinary Nurse can have a reasonable chance of earning a salary approaching the national average, or beyond, this will remain the case.

‘The veterinary profession is anything but radical. In general it reacts to stimuli rather than initiating innovation. There are bad vets and bad nurses, but the majority of Veterinary Nurses are good nurses, and the vast majority of vets take themselves very seriously. They do not relate well to anyone who does not have a suitably elevated view of the profession. The situation, however, is hopeless if Veterinary Nurses do not take themselves seriously! Although this is probably preaching to the converted – a statutory register is essential. Not least because of the effect it will have on its constituent parts.’

Twenty five years on and a Statutory Register remains elusive. But as for the issue of proper salaries for qualified VNs, I think Monsieur Karr’s observation probably still holds true. Despite all the changes in the veterinary nursing profession, financial rewards in general still do not match the hours worked or the level of responsibility undertaken.

So what advice is to be had?

Well. The veterinary author of the article finishes with the following suggestion. ‘On an individual level, when you next go for a job interview, don't answer the question “How much (money) are you looking for?” or “How much are you getting now?” until you have been told how much is being offered. Then if asked how much you are looking for, don't be afraid to ask for a fair wage.

Another quotation springs to mind: ‘Nothing venture, nothing gain’.


David Watson BVetMed MA MRCVS Editor

• VOL 25 • Nol • January 2010 • Veterinary Nursing Journal