Career Focus: Registered Veterinary Nurse
That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with RVN (Registered Veterinary Nurse), 25-year-old Kathrina Conneely from Clonbur, Co. Galway as part of this week’s Women in Ag segment in a two-piece written interview.
“I come from a strong farming background, with both parents hailing from agricultural backgrounds. My father came from a suckler enterprise, and my mother came from a sheep farm.
We are living on a suckler farm which was passed down to my father from his granduncle.
The herd comprises predominantly Limousin-crosses, which we breed on the farm through AI, and we will soon be starting into calving in the next few weeks.
From a very young age, I was always very passionate about animals. We grew up in a house full of pets with dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits and, of course, the pet calves too.
I knew from quite a young age that I wanted some form of a career working with animals.
Growing up, I suppose I always had my sights set on a career similar to veterinary nursing but was not even aware growing up that such jobs even existed as they were quite unheard of in Ireland at the time.
So, it was fortunate that as I started into secondary school that veterinary nursing careers and courses were starting out in Ireland.
After doing some research into the profession and finding courses available in Ireland, I was probably around fourteen when I knew that veterinary nursing was the pathway for me.
Because veterinary nursing was still relatively new in Ireland, I was a little apprehensive about pursuing the career.
I was worried whether there would be many job opportunities available in Ireland after completing the course.
However, after speaking to our local vet about it, he was very encouraging and put my worries at ease as he could see increasing demands for veterinary nurses every year, which was comforting to hear and definitely helped me in my decision-making to pursue a career in veterinary nursing.
I have often considered veterinary medicine, and when I was younger, I did not think I would have the confidence for it.
I was worried about having the right judgement for making difficult decisions for patients, but once I started doing placements and started working in the profession, it gave me more confidence that I would be able to handle difficult situations.
It made me realise that pursuing a career in veterinary medicine may have been an option or may still be one down the line.
I studied at Athlone Institute of Technology, which is now known as the Technological University of the Shannon in Westmeath, graduating in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science BSc in Veterinary Nursing.
I completed my Leaving Cert in 2015. My plan after the Leaving Cert was to take a gap year before starting into college as I was quite young when I had done the Leaving Cert.
So, I applied for veterinary nursing through the CAO (Central Applications Office) to Athlone and deferred the course for a year.
Unfortunately, during the year, we had a family bereavement within the household, so I decided to push off college for another year as the timing was not right at the time.
I let go of my deferral and re-applied for the course again once the CAO opened up and was fortunate enough to be able to defer it for another year.
During the year, I worked locally, which was a huge benefit in helping to finance college, and I started the course in September 2017.
I studied veterinary nursing from September 2017 to May 2020, and after completing this course, I then went on to do an add-on year in TUS in Applied Bioscience.
It was a one-year add-on course, which would open up more job opportunities down the line in the future or even gives me the opportunity of furthering my education down the line if I ever wanted to go down the road of teaching.
The course involved many different aspects, such as environmental management and the agricultural industry as well as food science and its processing and safety, as well as microbiology.
This course can give rise to different job opportunities down the line, such as working in the agricultural sector or veterinary health, in biopharmaceutical areas or even in food processing companies.
I was in my final year of my veterinary nursing degree when Covid-19 began. I was doing my final year placement, which ran from January to April, but due to the pandemic’s restrictions, placement got cut short by about two weeks, but fortunately, I had most of my placement completed.
The final year practical exams had to be done remotely, which was different, but thankfully, it all worked out okay.
When doing the add-on-year, many of our lectures for the first semester were done remotely which, in some ways, meant it was harder to follow and learn from.
We were in college for labs; however, as the weeks progressed, many labs also went remotely by the end of semester one.
For my second semester, all lectures and labs were done online, which meant I could study from home to do the course, which, in some ways, was.
I was able to be at home when calving was going on, but personally, I did find it harder to learn than being there in-person, especially when it came to completing my thesis.
Currently, I am working in a mixed animal practice in County Galway. I did work in a practice previous to this clinic which was also a mixed practice.
I worked there during my final year in college and came back full-time once finishing my course, where I worked full-time for a year-and-a-half.
Recently, I changed jobs in the middle of December 2022 and am currently working in Divilly’s Veterinary Clinic, which is a mixed practice located in Headford, Co. Galway.
It is a relatively new practice with two mixed animal vets, two veterinary nurses, and a part-time receptionist, and we will soon have a small animal vet also joining the team.
We cater for a range of small and large animal services as well as some equine.
Some of the services catered for include in-house bloods and x-rays, ultrasound, as well as a range of surgical procedures.
As a veterinary nurse, we have many different duties, such as performing minor surgical procedures, preparation of patients prior to surgery, monitoring general anaesthetics and recovering patients.
Also, the daily husbandry of inpatients, performing x-rays, dentals, stitch-ups, preparation and collection of blood samples, placement of intravenous catheters, administration of drugs and nursing clinics as well as some reception duties and advising clients on correct animal husbandry.”
Part two of this interview is to follow on That’s Farming.
To share your story with That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, email – [email protected]