Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month 2024

May 29, 2024

Vet nurse monitoring yellow mongoose in surgery

May is Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month and we’ve interviewed Marwell Zoo Veterinary Nurse, Lauren Valentine to find out the highs and lows of life working at the zoo. 

Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month is an annual month-long campaign created to raise awareness of the importance of Veterinary Nurses. 

How long have you worked at Marwell Zoo?

I have worked here since June 2023, however I had previously worked here a few times as a locum nurse in 2021 and 2022.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The variability, no two days are ever the same. Nurses are a Jack of all trades and master of most. One minute you are taking blood from a tortoise, the next you’re X-raying a sloth. 

I love learning new things every day and learning how to nurse each species as they have such different and specialised care. The location for administering injections for example, can differ between species. 

What’s the worst thing about your job?

Probably the poo. As part of routine disease/parasite surveillance measures, nurses are often looking down the microscope at a lot of faeces. It can take a fair amount of time to prepare and examine samples, and obviously… it smells!

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever done as part of your work?

The most unusual animals I have worked with would include the pangolin and sea turtles, they present some real challenges in veterinary medicine.

Most recently, I was involved in the care of a Brazilian Salmon Taranutla, which is a very large spider. This was a first for me and it was amazing to see that we can provide the same care to her as we could any other patient. 

What did you want to be when you were little?

To be honest, I had no clue. I always knew it would involve animals in some way, but I wasn’t sure how.

I am so happy that I landed in veterinary nursing, it’s an honour to be my patients advocate and to provide comfort. I was always fascinated by wildlife, so it does make sense I have ended up working with animals. 

What made you want to work with animals?

Not to sound corny, but I never really saw any other path for me. I liked animals, I liked science, I eventually put them together and veterinary nursing was a match. I didn’t fancy university when everyone else was heading off after college and fortunately, veterinary nurses have the option of 2 routes to Registered Veterinary Nurse status. University or college via a diploma. I chose the latter option, started working and studying and have not looked back. My nurse passport has taken me round the world and back. 

Who is your favourite animal at Marwell Zoo?

I recently met the servals, Jinx and Hex, they are beautiful and typical cats but I think Kiri, our rhino is in the number one spot now. Closely followed by Irina our female snow leopard and my new friend Ludka the spider. 

Who inspires you?

Other nurses mostly. I remember attending my first veterinary nurse conference and desperately hoping that one day I would be knowledgeable enough to be on that stage sharing my experiences, which is something I have achieved and now no one can shut me up!

To this day there are nurses who I look to for inspiration, we are such a knowledgeable and powerful community. 

I always want to learn more, and I took the leap to go to university (eventually) to study wildlife biology. I was inspired to do so by a veterinarian named Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka. She is the founder of Conservation Through Public Health. At a conference she shared how she identified transmission of parasites from humans to gorillas and what actions she took to prevent this, which in turn prevented disease and improved wild gorilla health. We often forget that humans can be a significant risk to wildlife rather than the other way round. This really placed animals/wildlife at the centre rather than seeing them as a problem.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Marwell Zoo?

Aside from the animals, my team is one of my favourite things. They are so dedicated and sometimes I can’t believe how much we collectively know. I really like that nurses are respected within the veterinary and animal care teams. 

I like that my job often involves being outside rather than stuck inside a building, and having a view of the rhinos from the office also helps.