In celebration of Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month – and with its 2022 theme in mind – Casey Plain BSc(Hons), CertVNECC, CA-SQP, RVN, shares her journey from nursing assistant to registered vet nurse and her hopes for the future, as well as reflecting on how the profession has progressed since the start of her career.

In February 2015, I was thrilled to see a piece of my writing published in VN Times. I actually still have the copy in my bedside drawer.

As a qualified nursing assistant, I remember feeling such frustration reading column after column of print solely geared towards registered veterinary nurses, like other members of the team were mere “lay staff”.

In my letter, I explained it was easier to describe myself as a veterinary nurse when people asked what my job was, because people just couldn’t fathom what a veterinary assistant was, or did. I was hugely disappointed in the overall attitude of the veterinary community that you were only a “hero” if you were in green.

Now, seven years on, I get it.

Resilience unmasked

After that piece was published, I received an array of replies and opinions. Understandably, the qualified RVNs were largely not supportive of my opinion. But I did also receive many private responses from people in similar positions, thanking me for speaking out on their behalf. I felt better for speaking out, but still felt a sense of unrest. The letter was the best path I could have taken, because, believe it or not, it led me to finally apply for a Higher National Diploma in Veterinary Nursing.

I was invited for an interview at Scotland’s Rural College’s Barony campus in 2016. I was six months pregnant by this point. I genuinely thought there was no way they could offer me a place due to my circumstances, but they did. And to everyone’s shock and bemusement, I started the full-time college course and block release with an eight-week-old baby.

I was the eldest in the class. Every few months, we would pack up our tiny car and travel three hours up or down the motorway. I was a top student, gaining some of the highest marks in all my assessments.

We lived between five different addresses across the 2.5-year period, with my husband giving up his job to help me fulfil my dream. I met all my working hours requirements while back in practice, essentially giving up my maternity period to do so, and made good and steady progress with my nursing progress log. I even changed practices in my second year by accepting a job opportunity I couldn’t turn down at St Clair Veterinary Group in Kirkcaldy.

I attended my graduation at the beautiful University of Glasgow. My close family came and all absolutely glowed with pride. My son was my biggest cheerleader and stole the show at two-years-old. I understood in that moment the many sacrifices fellow RVNs had made, and continue to make, to have the honour of becoming one. I have understood ever since. It takes a vast amount of dedication, regardless of the route taken, to complete all of the requirements and gain all the skills necessary to qualify.

Since qualifying, I have stayed with St Clair and obtained my Certificate In Veterinary Nursing In Emergency and Critical Care via Vets Now. I studied for this while on maternity leave with my second son. I have also taken part in further anaesthesia CPD and have a forefront role in the practice’s infection control protocols, which I actually really enjoy and have seen vast improvements in within less than a year.

Our profession

Although social media can be a ruthless platform for many reasons, I have found much solace in the many veterinary closed groups and forums. It is, overall, such a hugely supportive group of individuals worldwide, who encourage heated debate and share a generally morbid sense of humour. I akin it to when relatives come together for the likes of festivities, and bicker and joke around the table, regaling each other with tall tales and hilarious encounters.

I think social media has allowed the profession to stand stronger together against the many struggles and changes life has brought about. Likewise, in practice, I feel like my colleagues are my extended family. I see them more than my actual family, and we celebrate many of the most ecstatic highs together and stand together when we endure the lowest lows. It is a tireless, ever-changing, ever-improving profession, with massive drive. It is a real privilege to be part of.

The future

I am seven months pregnant with my third and final child. This one has been an absolute slog due to hyperemesis gravidarum, but with well-controlled medication, I have managed to continue to work.

My practice very much champions its veterinary nurses; actually, all the amazing staff. Its vision for the future is for RVNs to have a very involved role at every level in practice, with a lot of emphasis on carrying out more Schedule 3 procedures. Nurses are encouraged not only to follow any specific interests they may have, such as cytology, education, anaesthesia, behaviour, consulting, radiography and nutrition, but to use this knowledge in practice wherever possible.

In terms of my future, I would like to delve into education and support students to become the next RVNs on my return to work. I have seen a real positive shift in veterinary nursing awareness since that first letter all those years ago, and I’d like to continue to be a part of that. My journey into this profession has made me feel like anything is possible.

I hear the same line all the time: “I just don’t know how you do it”. The truth is, neither do I. What I do know is that veterinary nursing has shown me my strength; my resilience.

  • This article was originally published in VN Times (VNT22.05).


Casey graduated as an RVN from Scotland’s Rural College in 2018, after spending 10 years working as a nursing assistant. She works at the St Clair Veterinary Group’s Kirkcaldy practice, which operates both first opinion and referral services. Casey loves nursing geriatric patients, and has a keen interest in anaesthesia and in emergency and critical care nursing, in which, in July 2021, she gained her City and Guilds. Casey aims to build on her Schedule 3 surgical skills, and also become a clinical coach and mentor. She lives in Dundee with her husband, two sons, hairy cross-breed dog Haggis and one-eyed cat Willy.