Animal Care Advice from Industry Professionals

Animal Care Advice from Industry Professionals
Veterinary Clinic

Dr Nicol has lived and worked in Sydney since 2009. He previously lived in Scotland, graduating from Glasgow University Veterinary School in 1998. Since then, we has worked in some of Britain’s most esteemed veterinary hospitals, including Parkvets, where he was Head Vet and Director at the award winning, 18-doctor London practice. Then, after moving across the globe to Australia, Dr Nicol decided to start his very own veterinary clinic. He bought Dave’s Vets and Pets, a group of veterinary practices in Sydney, in 2011, where his team work tirelessly to help your pets live long, happy and healthy lives.

Dr Nicol also writes articles for four journals across three continents and is often invited to speak at veterinary conferences around the world about his dual passion of managing people and using social media to connect with pet owners.

At Open Colleges, we managed to pull Dr Nicol away from Dr Who for five minutes – his not so secret guilty pleasure – to chat about what life is like in the veterinary world.

“Stand out by working hard, following instructions and getting the job done right.”Tweet: “Stand out by working hard, following instructions & getting the job done right” by @drdavenicol via @OpenCollegesAU //

Vet clinic
1 As the owner of Dr Dave's Vets and Pets, what are the most important characteristics you look for when hiring a veterinary nurse?

We have a detailed profile when looking for new team members, including nurses. I want someone who shares my values, is fun to work with, knows how to get a job done and is keen to learn and develop. An essential part of that is being able to take on board feedback and view it as an integral part of learning, not an attack on their character. Actual experience in the role, beyond basic competence, is far less important as we can teach this along the way.

Vet clinic
2 What's one thing our veterinary nursing students can do to improve their chances when looking to find work placement?

When you get a break, take it! Finding a work placement can be challenging and so when you land one, stand out by working hard, following instructions and getting the job done right. It amazes me that people turn up and don’t make the most of the opportunity given to them. When I was at school, I cleaned out kennels, scrubbed floors and did all the bad jobs as quickly and as well as I could, so that I could grab a few minutes watching the vets and nurses in action. You have to earn the respect of those around you. If you do this, you'll stick out like a sore thumb - in a good way – and your efforts will be noticed.

3 How do you see your veterinary nurses’ careers typically progressing at your practice?

We typically hire Certificate IV veterinary nurses right after they qualify. We then develop their skills in anaesthetic and animal handling to our own high standards. We also aim to develop effective clinical and emotional intelligence skills in our nurses as part of their training.

My clinic would fall flat on its back without my skilled team of nurses. In just three years, one of my junior nurses has become head nurse, where she is the spine of my clinic and was even nominated for “Vet Nurse of the Year”! She and her team are brilliant.

Vet clinic
4 How do you suggest veterinary nurses keep their qualifications up-to-date? Is there any ongoing training that they should pursue?

For me, the biggest area would be anaesthetic skills, but there are so many facets to nursing that there is always something to learn along the way, whatever level you are. Membership of the Veterinary Nurse Council of Australia is a great idea and we also recently took out a team membership of a webinar training website, which gives access to skill development resources.

5 What are some of the most unexpected and interesting duties of a veterinary nurse at your practice?

One of the things I notice is that my nurses seem to enjoy training junior colleagues. Although we’re all busy, we don’t have an ethos of “we're too busy to train anyone else”. That's a trap a lot of practices fall into. Instead, I expect everyone to help train their colleagues, so teaching and helping each other is big for us. If you don’t like to learn, my practice would be a nightmare for you!

The other thing the nurses are getting much better at is managing the doctors. When I walk into the practice and see all the kits ready to go, I know we're going to have a great day. I love seeing my nurses telling my vets what to do and to a degree, I think my vets secretly like to be kept on track.

Vet clinic
6 Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would just like to say a very public and heartfelt thanks, not just to my nurses, but to all the veterinary nurses across Australia. You are unsung heroes, keep on rocking it!

If you’re interested in becoming a veterinary nurse, take a look at Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing. We also have a selection of other interviews from professionals working with animals, which you can see here.

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