I trained to become a veterinary nurse in Australia in 2008. The diploma course is very similar to the UK, a 3 year training program at a Veterinary Practice to gain practical skills with day release to college for theoretical knowledge. However, I have found the standard of nursing in the UK far exceeds the standard in Australia that I personally experienced in practice. The nurses at Damory are very technical and the level of education and exams they have to undergo to become a Registered Nurse are far more in depth compared to the course I took 12 years ago in Australia. The level of care, experience and skills the nursing team have to offer are exceptional and in many ways Damory would be classed as a Referral Centre in Australia.
As aforementioned, I started my career in a Practice in Australia and my nursing role was very similar to the role I have at Damory Veterinary Clinic; taking blood samples, assisting with radiography, monitoring anaesthesia, animal husbandry, Puppy PreSchool (puppy parties) and reception duties.
The main contrast between nursing in Australia and nursing in the UK are the emergency cases that are seen. An emergency often seen in Australia is tick paralysis. Once the tick bites the dog the paralysis agent is secreted through the saliva. The dog is then presented as an emergency with paralysis of the hind legs. Unless a serum is administered, the toxin spreads through the body, eventually reaching the lungs which then progresses to respiratory failure. The patient then has to be transferred to a referral centre to be placed onto a ventilator until the toxin is excreted from the body.
Heat Stroke is another emergency situation I saw more regularly in Australia. Living in a hot and humid climate, it is very difficult to keep animals cool. Once they become overheated, you have to cool them down immediately otherwise their bodies go into shock which can result in organ failure and in some cases death.
Local wildlife in Australia also differed greatly compared to the UK. On a night shift at Damory you could have up to 5 hedgehogs in at any one time and in Australia it would be Fruit Bats which are the size of a small cat! Or a Possum or Cockatoo!!! Fruit bats were usually hospitalised due to suffering electrocution from flying into overhead cables. They arrived stunned and unconscious. It was our role to administer fluids whilst they were unconscious and then could be transferred to a rescue centre to recover and then released. Possums were hospitalised usually after being involved in Road Traffic Accidents, whereby the mother suffered an injury, we would then have to check the pouch to see if there were any babies and if so, they would require hand feeding. There were initially rehabilitated in the Practice before being transferred to a rescue centre.
Here in the UK, one of the most common emergencies that I have experienced are animals involved in Road Traffic Accidents. I witnessed these far less whilst nursing in Australia, which I suspect is down to the legislation regarding ownership of a dog. In Australia all dogs are required to be on a lead at all times, there are designated dog parks where they are able to run off lead. If you do not abide by the rules, there are Park Rangers who will issue a fine of up to $300.
In conclusion I have enjoyed my experience of working in both countries. I am extremely happy and proud to have been part of the Damory team for the past 6 years and I am very excited to continue learning and expanding my knowledge and skills within this team.
By: Leanne Stephenson-Horne RVN