How we’ve changed

In June 1991 two enthusiastic 18 year olds, Nicola and Helen joined Cromlyn House Veterinary Clinic. 25 years later both ‘young’ ladies are still with us so we thought we’d ask them a few questions about their experiences.

What led you to apply for the job of trainee veterinary nurse?

Nicola– I saw the job ad in the Lisburn Star when I finished school. I always wanted to work with animals and had found out about vet nursing a few years earlier. It wasn’t a well-recognised role in those days and positions for work weren’t widely available in Northern Ireland. I remember posting my letter of application directly through the door of the clinic in 2 Main Street.
Helen– I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I left school but I saw the ad in the newspaper and the job description appealed to me. I’d been attending the clinic with my cats for four years and I remember the interview with Mrs Heffron like it was yesterday. I was quaking in my boots!

What was your first day in work like?

Nicola- I remember feeling very nervous and thinking there was an awful lot to learn and remember.
Helen- Nerve wracking! When I watched my first operation I became quite faint so went outside for some fresh air at the front door. Mrs Heffron came back from a call out and found me there, white as a ghost with blood on my apron and ushered me back in before I scared away the clients.

What do you think has changed most in veterinary nursing over the last 25 years?

Nicola-Technology.  Not just computerisation of all client records (a long way from the old yellow client card filing system) but also within theatre and anaesthesia (gone are the days of stethoscope and just eyes and ears).
Helen– Technology and uniforms! To develop X-rays we had to lock ourselves in the tiny waiting room toilet with cat litter trays of smelly developing fluid.  We sat in the dark watching the luminous second hand on our watch tick so we knew when to lift the X-ray from one tray to the next. Thank goodness that as an RCVS Tier 3 hospital we now have all the latest equipment.  And I’m very glad we don’t have to starch our white aprons anymore!

How has your role changed over the years?

Nicola– I qualified as a VN three years after starting and I even did a short stint as head nurse. After having children I wanted to reduce my hours so that worked in nicely with reception shifts.
Helen- I am a RVN and the IT/communications coordinator. I have been back and forth to work in-between travelling abroad, getting married and having four children. Cromlyn Vets have had to move with the times like every other business so my role now includes social media, marketing, text reminders and our website.  I also visit schools to chat about pet welfare and run monthly puppy parties.

What do you enjoy most about your job? What makes it hard?

Nicola- I enjoy working with people and their pets. It’s nice to see the relationship between the two. It’s always sad when a client loses their beloved pet especially when you have got to know them over the years.
Helen- I love building relationships with clients and patients and seeing them on a regular basis. Losing a pet is always heart-breaking and doesn’t get any easier as the years go by.

Why are you still here after all this time?

Nicola- I am still here because nobody else will have me! Seriously though I hope it’s because I do my job as best I can and I try to put a smile on people’s faces.
Helen- I’m here because I love my job!  Every day is different and I consider it a privilege to work in RCVS Tier 3 hospital.


Nicola McKeag and Helen Orr