Hello, my name is Vicki and I've been a veterinary nurse at The Donkey Sanctuary for over ten years.
People often ask me "Don't you get bored working only with donkeys?" It's then that I think back to my first day at the Sanctuary working in the new arrivals unit. A large stallion donkey snorted a good morning bray at me as I walked through the gates and that was the moment I knew donkeys were very different from any other animal that I had worked with (I also thought "What is wrong with that donkey? Should it be making a noise like that?") Little did I know it was a sound that was to become very familiar from then on!
My day starts with me attending to the inpatients that we have residing in the hospital convalescence unit, giving them their medication (in jam sandwiches) and checking any wounds or bandages that need changing or cleaning. At the moment we have cases ranging from surgical (post-operative laser sarcoid removal) to medical (protein deficiencies). Every patient needs to be approached and treated individually according to their condition and temperament.
Then after inpatient rounds I liaise with the vets (checking the tea room for cakes on the way!) to see if I will be assisting them with surgery or another procedure such as scanning, endoscopy or dentistry.
Today it's surgery, so I am prepping the patient by clipping and washing out their mouth, helping with catheter placement so the anaesthetic drugs can be administered and then once the patient is ready, I help to transfer them to the theatre and make the necessary positioning and cleaning ready for surgery. I then assist the vet when they drape up and throughout the operation in case they need any extra items (or a scratch on the nose!).
At the Sanctuary we have been lucky enough to work alongside many leading experts in equine medicine and treatment and today we have a veterinary surgeon from Liverpool who specialises in dermatological issues, including sarcoids, a disease that causes tumour like masses on equines. So there are a lot of people in surgery today to learn new techniques and share information about cases and best treatment methods.
After myself and the other nurses have cleaned up the theatre we then tackle the foot x-rays and blood sampling that need to be done out on the farms. Then it's one last check on the inpatients to make sure they are happy and comfortable, and to give any medication that is needed. And then the day ends; however we always have a nurse “on call” 24/7 to help assist with any emergencies that happen out of "business" hours – after all looking after our donkeys is a 24/7 job!
I love that it is challenging working at The Donkey Sanctuary. There is always a new patient to treat, or a new technique to learn, another farm to visit, or student to teach. And just like humans every donkey that I meet has its own personality and particular likes or dislikes, so working with them is as varied as it would be if I was still nursing in private practice. It's definitely not boring!