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Life as a large animal vet nurse

“I had equine science on my CAO but ended up going for veterinary nursing.”

Those are the words of 32-year-old Lisa O’Kelly, who now works as a large animal vet nurse.

Although her parents hail from Cork City, agriculture always had a place in Lisa’s heart. “Both my parents are from Cork City and moved out of the city before I was born. I always had an interest in animals and the bigger the better,” she told That’s Farming. 

“I started horse-riding at a very young age. Farming and farm animals always sparked an interest with me.”

“The nearest thing to a home farm would be my boyfriend’s family dairy farm where I try to help out as much as I can, especially during spring calving time.”


She secured a place in the veterinary nursing course at St. John’s College in Cork in 2008 and graduated in 2010.

“I stayed in St John’s for another year and completed a level 6 course in dog grooming before entering the working environment.”  

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Abbeyville Veterinary Hospital:

She worked in a large animal veterinary practice in Charleville before commencing her current position in 2018 at Abbeyville Veterinary Hospital. The practice has ten veterinarians, eleven veterinary nurses, two receptionists and four dog groomers.

“It is a 50% small and 50% large animal practice.” explained the large animal vet nurse.

“My main responsibilities are assisting the vets at TB testing and on-farm surgeries, co-ordinating callouts and keeping Hazell Mullins on her toes.”

“Others include liaising with the Department of Agriculture, helping farmers with medication, dosing, and overall enquiries.”

Lisa feels that the veterinary nurse sector is always growing, and the Irish Veterinary Nurse Association are “very good” to help with any enquiries for registered and student nurses.

However, evidently many graduates still venture across the pond in search for employment even though “there are many opportunities in Ireland for specialised veterinary nursing which are growing year-on-year”.

She advises aspiring veterinary nurses to experience a variety of different practices and “do it if you want to work with animals and don’t do it if you want to be rich”.

Veterinary nurse Lisa O' Kelly

A typical week

Lisa is currently working at the Blarney branch of the practice. “I help with small animal surgeries which keeps me on my toes.”

Lisa admits it is difficult to juggle motherhood but is lucky to have the support of her parents. “I would be totally lost without them; they are my lifeline.”

“I finish in Blarney at 5:30 pm and I get home nice and early to spend more time with my family.”

On Mondays and Tuesdays, Lisa attends farm call outs. “I could start at any time due to the number of animals in the herd and I could be finished early or late all depending”.

“Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I get to have some time getting my son ready for school.”

Veterinary nurse Lisa O' Kelly

Women in agriculture

Currently, Lisa has no male counterparts at her workplace, but she expressed it would be interesting to see if there was any difference on the farm or in the practice.

“To be honest, I think both men and women should be treated the same as we both work just as hard.”

“I think young girls should be shown they can do the same as lads in any environment and that might help girls reach their goals to become farmers or anywhere in the sector”.

Veterinary nurse Lisa O' Kelly


Lisa is enjoying her fast-paced career as a veterinary nurse. While she has no academic plans in place, she hopes to complete a green cert in the future once her house is built.

“I love that no day is the same and I have the best of both worlds out on the farms and in a nice warm practice too.”

However, she is disappointed and somewhat upset when there is not a good outcome in a case. This is a challenge she faces in her profession.

“Having dogs myself, I couldn’t imagine my life without them either, trying to comfort owners is definitely one of my biggest challenges in my work life”.

“Veterinary nursing is challenging and tough but that’s life in general and when you overcome those challenges that is when you reap the rewards.”

“My sister that passed away three years ago gave me the best life lesson. She always told me to fight for what you want and never let anyone step all over you.”

“That is something I have learned to do and always treat people the way you want to be treated,” Lisa concluded.

To share your story, email – [email protected]

Interview conducted by Catherina Cunnane

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