Saturday, 5 August 2017

What I learnt.... From my time in a shelter.

Well if I've learnt one thing in nursing it's sometimes you have to try stuff to work out where you'd never work again, I shall explain.

I found this a lot when locuming, not only do you learn best practice, you also learn how not to do things. Where you'd like to work and where you'd never work again.

My most recent life lesson - Shelter medicine is not for me.

For me nursing I've realised isn't just about the animals, from my most recent experiences I've realised just how much I like client interaction, and how much I missed it when I no longer had it. It's one of the areas that as nurses we get to share our experience and our knowledge. From explaining different diets to clients to simply having the pleasure of telling them that their beloved pet is actually going to pull through and be ok. I realised that when you take this away from a nurse, the job satisfaction takes a bit of a nose dive. We all moan about the 'humans' how much they irritate us when we just want to get our hands on their pets, the miss-information they feed us at times. But when you take all of that away, geez I really missed those little old ladies coming in for their once weekly visit to tell you their life stories.

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I also missed those intense hospital patients, the ones where you start on a Monday and by Friday you can really see the difference you've made. As a nurse that's really important, too often we feel undervalued as a profession - glorified cleaners if you will. But we all remember those cases that you get a real kick out of for working damn hard and getting results from.

Shelter medicine in my experience is also a really intense environment. It's all about numbers, and not just the money. It's about intense amount of surgeries on a daily basis, about moving animals around the place to make room for more. Yes it was a well oiled machine, but because of this it lacked the personality and the individual patients. When on surgery I felt like I wasn't giving animals my best nursing, due to having to get them off the table asap and recovered so that the next one could get on. I take my hat off to the people that can stay in these environments long term, I personally found it very emotionally and mentally challenging, I found it tested my core principles of why I became a nurse in the first place.

Disease in shelters spread like wild fire, and this was a real eye opener for me. Whilst most have a no kill policy, there's always certain diseases that you just can't allow in. I found this particularly tough, whilst in private clinic you would take a suck it and see type view - you just couldn't in shelter medicine.

Due to most shelter environments also being charity ones there is a constant reminder of lack of funding, of making do. Whilst this is fine, eventually the snowball catches up. Equipment fails, people fail and become mentally worn out. I remember people saying you have to go home when your shift ends, because they'll always be more to do if you stay. This is so true, you could extend your working day by hours and yet still not really see the difference you've made.
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Whilst it was a good life experience for me and I learnt invaluable skills, it's not something I would ever do again. Without being too dramatic it broke me a bit, even making me question my whole career as a nurse. It's a tick in the box for me, something I tried but didn't really enjoy. So whilst most nurses moan about private practice at some point or another I say bring it on, I can't wait to get back to annoying clients and day to day clinic consultations. Now, who wants to give me a job :p!


  1. Being a veterinary is the most honest and humble job one can do. It is not easy to be a veterinary doctor long working hours and treating harmless animals who are not able to express themselves.