In conversation with veterinary recruitment specialist Helen Paddison

Helen is a veterinary recruitment specialist and works as part of the dedicated team at IVC Evidensia focused on recruiting Referral Veterinary Nurses across the UK. She began her career in recruitment working in the automobile industry, which revved her up to discover a true vocation in supporting animal care!
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Can you tell us about your career path and how you came to work at IVC Evidensia?

Back in 2016, I started working in recruitment quite by accident as a lot of people do. I began recruiting in an agency role for the motor industry, things like car dealerships and stuff like that.
I stayed there for about 18 months but realised I really don't care about cars! I looked at alternative options that might lead to more progression and opportunities because I really enjoyed the recruitment element of the role, but I wanted to find something that I was passionate about. There happened to be a veterinary recruitment agency based in York, which is where I live. I progressed through to a senior role while I was there, and my focus was always on nurse recruitment.

I've always felt I can relate to the demographic of Veterinary Nurses. I really enjoyed recruiting for those kinds of roles because it’s a career path I had considered for myself before discovering recruitment, so I understand what people are looking for and find it easy to connect. When the opportunity came up to join the team at IVC, it was a step into in-house recruitment with something that I felt was good for me. COVID had been quite turbulent for people working in agencies, so I thought it was time for a bit of stability.

I'm fascinated by the veterinary industry, my original career plan was to be a vet nurse myself, but the course I was signed up for ended up deferring for a year, and that's when I accidentally started working in recruitment, so this was the best of both worlds.

Could you tell us more about your role?

I solely recruit Referral Nurses for the group. My focus is on our referral hospitals. That could be our main sites but also our mid-tier sites, which are a combination of first-opinion and referrals.
My role is to receive vacancies from our Nursing Managers who are based on-site. We discuss the opportunity available, the unique aspects of the role and the variety of cases, and what type of person would be the best fit for that team. It’s my job to advertise that position, manage any applications that come in, answer questions from potential candidates, and support them on that journey.  

I am the first point of contact for candidates, we have a conversation so I can find out what it is that they're looking for, and then I support both the hiring managers and the candidates through the process to ensure we are meeting their needs and keeping them informed and involved. Then when we find the perfect match, the candidate accepts the offer and goes off into their lovely new role!

You’ve mentioned you’re supporting candidates - what does that entail for you and for them?

From my own personal experience, I think moving jobs can feel really daunting and so I think it can make the journey easier if you have someone you feel is on your side, someone who can give you just a little bit of insight - maybe an impartial third party who can answer questions for you that you might not feel comfortable asking your potential new boss in an interview.

What kind of specialist skills and knowledge do you have that make you so good at your job?

I like to think I have an advantage in that I've been recruiting in veterinary since 2018. I have a good base knowledge of the industry as a whole and I've been here to witness the changes that have happened. What drives me in this role is that I'm so passionate about animal welfare, and I have a genuine interest in the veterinary industry.

I also have a genuine interest in advocating for the rights of RVNs, I think that for a long time, they've been overlooked. It’s great to be a part of a movement where salaries are increasing, professional development opportunities are increasing, and nurses are being championed to grow and develop their own careers. I love being a part of that because I feel so passionately about it. And I'll always fight for nurses, I'll always push to make sure that our offering is the best it can possibly be.

If you had to sum up the goals of the Talent Team, how would you describe them?

When we get the right people in the right roles then our staff are supported. It allows us to continue to give high standards of care and to ensure the well-being of everyone working there. We know that people have more time to enjoy a better work/life balance, they can comfortably complete CPD and certificates and they feel supported.
Having the right people in the right roles has a positive effect on the welfare of our people and our patients. That's our main goal as a company, to keep those standards of care high.

It’s easy to become emotionally invested when it's veterinary. I just love animals, like I'm obsessed! I'm always wanting to adopt more rescue cats.

Working for a company where animal welfare is truly at the heart of it, it's where I want to be.

What would you say you most enjoy about working at IVC Evidensia?

I love working with veterinary nurses. I feel I can relate to the demographic, I get to meet some amazing people, people who care so passionately about what they do. That goes for candidates, our hiring managers, and our nursing managers. Hearing about their own journey to that senior position they're in today, knowing how they got there and all the hard work they've put in - I just think these people are so interesting, and the team that I work in as well, they're just such a good bunch.

What are you most proud of achieving in your work?

I've worked hard to get to know our practices, and these roles, and to build good relationships with candidates.
I'm leading the nurse recruitment for our new hospital, Blaise, which is opening in Birmingham later this year. It’s been a great opportunity to be part of building the team from the very beginning, and everyone is so interested in this new place!

What things do you look for when you're speaking to candidates?

Two things that I really focus on are attitude and aptitude. We’re looking for people to have the relevant clinical qualifications and their RCVS registration, that's a given, but I think you need to be a certain person to excel in referrals. We get a lot of people who are interested in learning and developing because you have this opportunity to work with a diverse caseload that you wouldn't see in general practice. We get people who want to learn and progress their clinical skills, who are truly passionate about providing incredible standards of care and just being the best nurse that they can be. It's the people who have taken the time to do a little bit of research on the practice before applying to make sure that they align with the values of that practice, and they feel it would be a good place to work.

I look for someone who has a good attitude towards what the role entails, and someone I can tell is passionate about what they do. I look for people who I feel are really committed to what they're doing.

What would you want someone thinking about applying for a role with IVC Evidensia to know?

Specifically, regarding referrals, I would want people to know that it's not as scary as it seems. The move from first-opinion into referral practice can seem very daunting for people, and some people are interested but a bit nervous.

I hope that in my role I can support people through those feelings and maybe clear up any worries that they might have, and their questions. What does the role look like? What's the team like? Will I fit in? Will I be able to do it? I can help to clear up some of those worries for people.

I always make sure that we arrange a visit to the practice for potential candidates. It might be a couple of hours, or it might be a full day so they can go and spend time with the team, meet a few people, chat with the other nurses who work there, see the facilities, and just spend a little bit of time there.
I want people to know that we are so open to taking nurses from a first-opinion background and offering them training and support to work in referrals. If they can demonstrate that right attitude, and if they want to learn it, we can train them in it.

I want people to know that they will be really well supported in their clinical training, as long as you have the ambition, then we can help you!