For Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month, Julie, our dedicated Project Manager in Goa, India and a registered veterinary nurse (RVN), kindly shared her incredible journey from the day she decided to be an RVN to now.
Why did you want to become a veterinary nurse?
"I always knew I wanted to work with animals and as soon as I passed my driving test, I applied for a job at a boarding kennel and cattery. I worked at the kennels for five years and during that time, I adopted my first dog "Meggie," a failed gundog. Meggie had many behavioural problems which prompted me to enrol on a canine behaviour course at my local college. My tutor Lesley, was a qualified veterinary nurse and a huge inspiration. After completing the course, I left the kennels to train to become a veterinary nurse in a mixed animal practice in my hometown. I worked in private practice for seven years and after becoming a registered veterinary nurse (RVN), I went on to study Applied Animal Behaviour at the University of Southampton. During this time, I also worked at my local animal rescue centre and although I did not have many days off during the week, I took advantage of my annual leave and developed a great love for travel.
What was your first volunteering experiences abroad?
"The first country in Asia I visited was Sri Lanka and I was so shocked and upset at seeing all the sick and injured stray animals roaming the streets. In my hotel, I bonded with a three-legged dog which the locals had aptly named "Tuk-Tuk." I was devastated when I left him but knew I had to do more to help animals abroad. Then I visited India and that is where my journey really began.
"Every holiday, I travelled to Kerala in South India and volunteered for an animal rescue. When I was back in the UK, I also organised fundraising events for the charity. I could not get India or the animals out of my head - I needed to do more, but I did not know how.
"I left private practice and joined the Blue Cross in London. After one year of working in one of the largest charity veterinary hospitals in the UK, I was promoted to Staff Nurse for Emergency and Critical Care and held this position for five more years. Whilst working at the Blue Cross, I also returned to university on a part-time basis and graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Animal Science. Every year, sometimes twice a year, I continued to travel to India and volunteered my skills to help the animals.
How did being a veterinary nurse take you abroad?
"In 2012, shortly after my graduation, I saw an advertisement for a veterinary nurse at the Animals Asia Bear Rescue centre in China. After undergoing several skype interviews, I was informed I had not been successful, however, they offered me a position in Vietnam instead! Within eight weeks, I had packed up my life in the UK and was on my way to Vietnam. I worked in Vietnam for three years and it was such an amazing opportunity. Not only did I get to care for moon bears and rescue them from the bear bile trade, but I helped to develop the small animal clinic which provided veterinary care to dogs and cats in the local community.
"During my time at Animals Asia, I was contacted by Mission Rabies' (MR) sister charity, Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) and asked if I would be able to travel to Malaysia to assist with a trap, neuter and release campaign. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity and this is where my connection with WVS and MR began.
How did you join the Mission Rabies team?
"Not long after my trip to Malaysia, I was approached by WVS/MR, as they were looking for a Project Manager to run a mass vaccination campaign in Goa, India. It was not an easy decision as I loved working for Animals Asia, but the pull of India was too strong and I knew if I did not take the opportunity, I would always regret it. In July 2015, I moved to Goa and became Project Manager for Mission Rabies. Initially managing a team of seven, I am now responsible for 60 members of staff and on average, we vaccinate 100,000 dogs every year against rabies. We also rescue hundreds of sick and injured animals so my veterinary skills are still very much utilised and I have just completed my MSc in International Animal Welfare Ethics and Law.
How do you find working in the field?
"I do miss working in a practice/rescue centre environment and living in India certainly brings challenges, but now I am in a position where I am not only helping animals but people as well. Working on a one health project is extremely rewarding and it is my amazing team (yellow army!) that keeps me motivated even through the tough times. I have had an incredible journey since the day I decided to be an RVN and would not change any of it!
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring veterinary nurse, what would it be?
"The world is your oyster! There are many volunteer opportunities abroad to help and care for animals in need and you never know where it will lead you. If I had not volunteered at the shelter in India, I would not be where I am today!"