Referral vet nursing with Katy: dedication, mentorship and experience

Katy Brown’s love for animals led her to a transformative experience in Australia, where she discovered her passion for veterinary nursing. Joining Abington Park Referrals as a student nurse, she qualified in 2006 and has since pursued advanced surgical training and CPR certification. Over 22 years, she has seen the team at Abington develop and has mentored and guided many student nurses.

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Could you tell us about yourself, your career path, and how you came to join Abington Park Referrals?

As a young person after A-levels, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do. Originally, I wanted to be a hairdresser, but I really loved animals - specifically horses. At one point, my dad suggested I could be a veterinary receptionist, but I didn’t make any concrete plans.

I then went off to Australia and did some travelling. I stayed at a friend's house and her uncle was a vet. She suggested I spend some time with him for work experience. So I did, and spent two weeks with him in the middle of the country in Australia, and I loved it. I was fascinated by what I saw in the vet practice. That's when I realised the range of roles within a veterinary team, and I knew being a vet nurse was the right one for me.

When I came back from Australia, I got a job at Abington Vets. I took a student nurse position and completed what was then known as the student NVQ. I went to college one day a week and worked full-time, which was the best option for me. While my friends were going to uni and getting student loans, I was working and learning at the same time! I qualified as a vet nurse in 2006, did my advanced diploma in 2010 in surgical nursing, and recently completed a certificate in the Recover Initiative CPR.

Can you tell us more about your diploma and certification?

When I started at Abington, I thought I wanted to be a medical nurse. We're fortunate here because we are both a first opinion and referral practice. This allows us to train in first opinion and learn referrals at the same time. It gave me insight into where I'd like my career to move. I always thought I'd do medical referrals, but I ended up being the team leader in the surgical department. I decided I needed to do a surgical certificate because we offer orthopaedics and soft tissue here. I enrolled with Myerscough College for the advanced diploma, which was a two-year distance learning course with a final dissertation.

The diploma gave me more knowledge and confidence to train the team. I decided to focus on CPR and IVC Evidensia supported me in attending a two-day CPD retreat, where I learned a lot and became a ‘recover rescuer’. The Recover Initiative provides the only official veterinary CPR guidelines in the world. It's like the guidelines for human CPR, which have increased survival rates. It's a fantastic program, and I'm now able to train my team in CPR, preparing us for emergencies.

Could you tell us about the team at Abington and what it's like working there?

Having been here for 22 years, I've seen the team develop and grow. We have a lot of skilled people and are also a training practice. We’re a large team, offering many opportunities to move around and take on different roles. We have a mix of people from various professional backgrounds, and there's always something to learn from each other. Our nurses are given a lot of trust to do procedures; we're trusted to take X-rays, to take CT scans, to take blood samples, give medication in wards – there’s so much opportunity and

What advice would you give to a vet nurse looking to develop their skills or explore working in referrals?

If they're already a qualified nurse and unsure which path to take, I’d recommend joining a practice like ours, where there are many opportunities. You can start with primary care and observe referral work. We also host Vets Now for emergency care, providing exposure to different areas. It’s challenging to choose a specialisation, but being in a practice with diverse opportunities helps.

What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?

I would say to stay open-minded and do what you enjoy. If it seems interesting, work hard and reap the rewards.

What do you get up to outside of work?

I'm a busy mum with two children. I'm part-time now since having the kids, which the IVC Evidensia are really supportive of, I’ve been able to choose a working pattern that fits my life.

Outside of work, I share a lovely horse, spend a lot of time riding, and I’m really into yoga. It helps me relax and stay active. I also love reading, especially the Veterinary Nursing Journal – but only in paper form!

What are you proudest of in your veterinary career so far?

I’m most proud of the influence I've had on others and their career development. Being in the same practice for so long has allowed me to see many people grow, and I’d like to think my knowledge and friendly nature have had a positive impact on their progression.