Starting your journey on becoming a veterinary nurse is an exciting one – from working hard on your grades throughout high school, then getting an acceptance letter to study at college, and then there’s the purchase of your very first textbook (that you will never want to make a highlighted line in or dog-ear a page to go back on!).

All of this is happening at the same time as you are maybe moving out of home, meeting new people, making completely new friends, and also becoming fully responsible for your study schedules. It can be quite an overwhelming time – and then, suddenly you’re in a new workplace getting hands-on experience in the real world of being a veterinary nurse!

There are a million things that may go through your mind before your first day on placement as a Student Veterinary Nurse (SVN). We talk to an SVN who shares her proud achievements and the things to look forward to, an RVN who has recently graduated and how she felt as time went on, and we also work through some of the common fears and worries felt by SVNs before their first time in a new practice.

Freya, an SVN studying at Middlesex University, shares her proud achievements while being on placement. She tells us “a high for me was putting what I learnt in theory into practice and it all coming together and making sense to me. I also loved meeting new people and seeing how rewarding the job is especially seeing how much the practice cares about the clients pets. It was always very rewarding discharging a very ill patient that I’d helped nurse to their owner as it reminds you how important your job is and seeing the owner appreciate your work.”

Anarosa, an RVN who has recently graduated, shares that one of the “most rewarding things I found throughout my studies was having more initiative with my patients as the years went on and actually doing things that I knew should be done rather than waiting to be told to do them. It always made me feel so confident and independent”.

A lot of anticipated fear around being the “newbie” in practice can be managed through taking advantage of all experiences that come your way, getting involved with cases and procedures and communicating with your clinical coach and colleagues to get the most out of your training.

Let’s take a look at some of the things commonly overheard by many SVNs in the lead up to their new placement in practice.

“I won’t know anyone”

Throughout our careers we will start new jobs and meet new people, and our comfort zones will be pushed. The best thing you can do to get over the first hurdle of being the newbie in the veterinary practice is to introduce yourself to everyone. This ice breaker will help you become familiar with who everyone is and who to go to when you have a question. Remember, you won’t be alone as you will always have your clinical coach as a go-to person if you’re not sure, and then you have your friends who can message you for reassurance during your break.

“I feel like I’ll just get in the way”

Working ‘on the floor’ can be a very fast paced place, and every practice is different. The busy mornings doing consults and surgery admissions, to looking after patients in wards and setting up for the day’s procedures, then calling owners for discharges and getting the practice ready for the next day can seem incredibly overwhelming!

It will take a few days to understand the routine and how the practice runs – however you can always offer your help and ask how you can be of help. Eventually you will be able to anticipate what is next to do or what needs to be done, and then you will feel confident to work independently from your clinical coach (but know you will always have their support).

When you want to get involved in patient care, procedures or you’d to see something new, you can ask where the best place to stand is and watch, and then next time you’ll know what happens next and you could ask to help then!

“I don’t want to seem too keen”

Every person in the veterinary practice will know you are a student, and they will know you will want to learn and see new things, and try to do certain procedures (like bandaging or placing an IV catheter). So, there is no such thing as being “too keen”.

You will get the most out of your placements by giving everything a go. It is the perfect time to try everything with the support of your training practice, clinical coach and your lecturers.

“What if I say or ask something stupid”

The famous saying is that there is no such thing as a stupid question – and it still rings true. It is better to have asked the question than to make a mistake. Even if you do make a mistake, it is better to be upfront and honest about it – we have all made them, we are all human!

You can always try to quickly read up on something before asking a question so that the conversation becomes discussion based instead of being told something. It also shows initiative too.

A lot of SVN’s are nervous about talking to clients. Prior to helping on the front desk, answering the phone or even doing a patient discharge, ask someone to role play with you and create scenarios on what clients might say or ask. If you are asked something you are not sure of, then remember it is OK to ask someone for help – you will get to learn something new, and the client will really appreciate it!

“Everyone is so knowledgeable, I feel like I know nothing”

It is very easy to compare yourself to other people in the practice or people who your veterinary nursing idols. When you do this, you are not taking into account the many years that they have been in practice, the reading they have done and any additional study they may have undertaken. As you progress in your studies, ask lots of questions and see new things, the knowledge will come so easily!

Don’t be too caught up on trying to know everything about every part of veterinary nursing. Throughout your career – you will never stop learning!

“What if I faint”

If you are worried about fainting then make sure you have something to eat before you scrub into surgery or help with a procedure. If you think you will get too hot, take some layers off from under your scrubs beforehand.

Sometimes people get anxious at the thought of becoming faint and feeling like they should try to hide it. It is OK to come up with a plan with your colleagues until you feel comfortable in a situation! You might want to start off by watching a procedure first before scrubbing in and if you think it will help you can also ask to sit down too. Then when the times comes that you are going to scrub in and assist, you can also say “if I don’t feel well, will it be OK to tell you and I take a step back?”

Fainting or feeling anxious about seeing something new is completely normal, but everyone around you will be there to support you.

Take Home Points

As you can see, a lot of feeling like the ‘newbie’ in practice can be overcome through communicating with your colleagues and putting yourself out there.

Get all the hands on experience you can. Being exposed to something makes it a lot less scary, it will become the norm!

  • Don’t worry about not knowing something – you can always look it up, and someone will always have an answer!
  • We have all been the newbie once before on our first placement – we know how it feels. And soon it will be your turn to support the next generation of SVNs and take someone under your wing!