- RVN Samantha McCauley
I was working towards becoming a Veterinary Nurse for about 8 years before I decided to do my degree to qualify as an RVN. I graduated last June and initially began working at a different practice. I was working on-call on top of my full-time hours plus OOH on weekends along with running a hedgehog rescue in my spare time, as a result of this I was getting exhausted. When I was on-call, if I did have sick hedgehogs, I was relying on the other volunteers, and I just felt it wasn’t sustainable.
I approached Sundean to find out if they had any openings for nurses and was put in touch with the head nurse and we went from there. I was glad to leave my previous job because of the out-of-hours and the longer commute, so this role is a much better fit for me.
Before I started in January with Sundean I was initially nervous. I had been considering leaving the nursing profession altogether before I had even really begun in my career - but the team here have been so amazing, I now feel like I’m exactly where I need to be. Everyone is so welcoming, and we have just a lovely, supportive bunch here.
On one of my first evenings working at Sundean, we had a dog come in with a broken dewclaw that ended up having a seizure just as it came in, and the whole team came together perfectly to care for the dog. Everybody was just amazing. We work so well as a team. I truly couldn't ask for a better position. I'm so much happier in my job than I’ve ever been before – even my family have noticed a difference!
I want to be a voice for the animals. They can’t speak for themselves so it’s our job to give them a voice. I love helping to educate owners to be the best caregivers they can be. So much of our work is about education because people love their animals and want to do the right things for them, but they need the right information to do that. Getting that information out and being an advocate for the animals is what motivates me.
During my training as a student, I was on placement and three orphaned hoglets came in needing care. The local rescues were full, so I offered to care for them until there was space. Another hedgehog came in later that month, after being caught in netting on a Friday evening, and it needed fluids over the weekend, and again there was no space at the local rescue. So that one ended up coming home with me too, and it started from there!
We’re called ‘Samantha’s Little Prickles’ and we care for hedgehogs that need medical support until they’re ready to be released back into their natural habitat. They’re often with us because they've been found out and about during the day which can be a sign of a high parasitic burden - unless it's a mother moving with purpose in which case, we say to leave well alone! You do get strimmer injuries, broken legs, trapped in netting, and road traffic accidents as well.
It's very rewarding, hedgehogs are very complex, and they keep me on my toes. You can be working with one and think it’s doing really well and then all of a sudden, they crash. We do have vet support of course, who are there to help and provide medication and give advice because hedgehogs do require that specialised care.
Because hedgehogs are prey animals, they find interacting with people very stressful. I've had some friendly ones come through and they can be super chilled out, but that’s not really what we want! The goal of all the work we do is to treat them and release them back to the wild where they belong.
I’m usually busy with my nurse clinics, second vaccines and things like that, and we have regular neutering, dentals and lump removal operations. But we do get some interesting cases coming through as well, it really varies! Our clients are really lovely as well.
The whole team is so friendly, from reception right up to management. Everyone is genuinely nice. I've worked in five different practices, including work in Australia as a veterinary receptionist as well - the Aussie practices are renowned for being friendly, which they are, but Sundean is genuinely one of the friendliest that I've worked in.
We’re right in the middle of the Forest of Dean so there is a lot going on. You can go walking and running, in the woods and there are loads of different activities to do. If you like the outdoors, it's great, just down the road you've got the River Wye and there are beautiful local lakes as well. Especially if you've got a family and kids looking for fun stuff to do, there’s lots on offer.
Wildlife is a big thing for me, so I'm trying to get more education on wildlife out there to the public, not just on hedgehogs! I also want to help owners by offering education to support the overall well-being of their animals. As I develop in my role here, I’m hoping to do clinics to support owners looking to get their animals to a healthier weight.
I have a black Labrador called Ben and two gerbils called James and Edward. One of my gerbils was advertised as free to a good home so I took him on, but because they are very social animals, I reached out and managed to find a second single gerbil and I was able to bond them. I’m in the process of potentially adopting an African pygmy hedgehog, after doing a lot of research as they're quite complex to care for.