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Náoimh McCann

BSc in Veterinary Nursing

Helping animals never gets old! From the young ones to the golden oldies. Seeing animals improve, in some part, due to the care you provide is special.

Náoimh McCann is a DkIT veterinary nursing graduate who now teaches on the programme. 

1. When and how did your interest in becoming a veterinary nurse first start?

Like many in the industry my love for animals started at a young age. I grew up on a farm and was always out and about finding something to do with the livestock or my multitude of pets. I loved the husbandry tasks and the joy that caring for these living creatures gave me. Also, at a young age, I became passionate about science. I loved the inherent logic of it all. 
I knew I wanted to do something with animals and science. So, I went back to college to become a veterinary nurse as a mature student. I attended Dundalk Institute of Technology and completed the BSc Veterinary Nursing (Level 7) and the BSc (Hons) Advanced Veterinary Nursing (Level 8)

2. How did you come to work in a veterinary practice?

It all began in college. You undertake work placement as part of the veterinary nursing course. For one of my placement sites I went to a large and busy mixed animal veterinary hospital - I loved it! I must have made a good impression, as I was offered work as an animal care assistant (ACA). When I was entering my final year in college, I was offered full time employment as a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) on the condition that I graduated my course (which I did).

3. For how many years have you been a veterinary nurse?

Three years in clinical practice before commencing my current job as a veterinary nursing lecturer. I am still a registered veterinary nurse with the Veterinary Council of Ireland and I utilise my skillset almost daily on my farm.

4. Would you consider veterinary nursing to be a stressful job? Why?

Veterinary nursing has the capacity to be incredibly stressful as the pace of work can be relentless. A veterinary hospital is a very busy environment to work in with a lot of moving parts (patients, clients, staff, specialised equipment, etc). No two days are the same and things can be very unpredictable –which certainly keeps things interesting. 

The industry as a whole is facing some major challenges. For example, there is an ongoing mental health crisis and a need for better work-life balance (including pay and conditions). Veterinary nursing is a relatively young profession in Ireland, so there is still massive room for growth within the industry to truly appreciate and utilise the skillset of the veterinary nurse. A lack of autonomy and  appreciation can add to frustration and stress at times.

With all that being said, there have been improvements in recent years, and it is incredibly rewarding work. Like all things, change takes time but the outlook for the veterinary nursing is quite positive.

5. Have you ever obtained any injuries from working in a veterinary clinic? i.e. animal attack, 
equipment failure etc.

Unfortunately, yes. I’ve had several incidences. Bites, scratches, kicks, sore back, and last but not least - needle stick injuries. Fortunately, none of them serious enough to be admitted to hospital.

6. Has working as a veterinary nurse ever take a toll on your mental health i.e. dealing with 
the death of animals, and worried pet owners?

Yes, I’ve had some tough times in practice but generally speaking not because of the animals. An interesting point to make is that you will appreciate being able to give animals “good deaths” i.e. euthanasia in practice. As a vet nurse I could provide animals and their owners with care and compassion during those tough times. The hardest cases to deal with for me was watching animals suffer and owners not yet being able to let them go despite our recommendations to the contrary. Also, owners that were disinterested if their animals were to be euthanised (rare though that may be). These cases alongside cruelty or neglect cases are always tough but again, there is solace in being able to provide those animals with some love and care in the aftermath. Owners mourning usually indicated to me they loved their pet – I can only respect those type of tears/experiences. The hardest times for me personally was usually due to burnout. There can be a fear when you’re so busy and exhausted in work that you’ll miss something critical, and a patient could suffer. Or worse –die! No one wants to deal with the doubt of ‘what if?’. So, feeling stretched thin can be intense. That fear can feel oppressive! Especially if you’re watching your colleagues go through the same.

7. What brought you the most fulfilment working as a veterinary nurse?

The animals and working with the team. Animals: Helping animals never gets old! From the young ones to the golden oldies. Seeing animals improve, in some part, due to the care you provide is special or indeed the opposite of getting better and being part of your patients having a peaceful goodbye is incredibly special. Animals never cease to amaze me with how resilient they are. Many have no idea why they’re in this strange place and surrounded by strangers and yet they tolerate it. I never underestimated the surrealness (and likely terrifying) experience it must be for many of them and tried my best to make them feel as safe as possible.The team: There is something special in the air when you are part of a team that just clicks. That no matter what you can all pull together and do great things. Plus, there is likely a good laugh being had thrown into the mix. That is pretty special! 

8. Would you consider veterinary nursing to be a team oriented job i.e. working a lot with 

Most definitely! In fact, getting to work with a great team was one of my favourite parts. It’s perhaps the opposite of people’s assumptions about the veterinary industry – that vet professionals just like animals and aren’t people lovers. I strongly believe you have to like working with people (clients and team members) if you hope to gain successful outcomes for your patients. Some of the best vet nurses and vets I met were amazing communicators within the team and had excellent interpersonal skills.

9. Would you have any advice for someone to wants to be a veterinary nurse?

• Try and gain some experience in practice to see if it is something you could see yourself doing long term. • Get animal handling experience – as varied as possible. Developing an innate knowledge of how animals behave will stand to you in practice. Dog walking, cat sitting, animal shelters, farms, equine centres, horse riding etc. You won’t regret it!• Get fit! It’s a physically demanding job – lots of manual handling, cleaning, running, on your feet all day. • Appreciate that it is a technically skilled job. To get the most out of it you have to be willing to put the work in to yourself and therefore the profession. • Enthusiasm is infectious. If you’re passionate about something, the people around you will likely buy into it to and invest their time and effort into you.

Find Out More About Veterinary Nursing at DklT


Helping animals never gets old! From the young ones to the golden oldies. Seeing animals improve, in some part, due to the care you provide is special.