In conversation with Carla Finzel

RVN Registered Veterinary Nurse - Founder of the DVN District Veterinary Nurse role

19 Months on, we catch up with Carla Finzel on how the District Veterinary Nursing Development Group (DVN) has developed.

Since we last met, what have you been up to and how has DVN developed?

It has been a whirlwind! The District Veterinary Nurse Development group was established in January 2018 and 19 months down the line we have been out and about speaking to vets, students and registered vet nurses. Since we last met at VetFest 2018, the District Veterinary Nurse campaign has gained great momentum, everyone seems knows about it now. I now know that it is not just me but many others now who feel so passionately about the need of this role as part of accessible veterinary care for animal welfare and human wellbeing.

One Welfare! Where members of the public, pet owners, vets, veterinary paraprofessionals, vet nurses, human doctors and nurses can come together, communicate and achieve the best outcome for all.

We’ve seen you’ve achieved some fantastic milestones where you’ve been invited to speak at various conferences. Where have you been so far and what do you have planned?

Since June 2018 we have presented at The Royal Veterinary College, Chichester College, the British Veterinary Nursing Association Fringe, The Student Veterinary Nursing Inaugural Congress, and a BVNA event in Kent.

We have so much more planned!

Sep 2019 - Taking part in Say Aphasia Dog Fest in Brighton - Say Aphasia is a Sussex based charity that supports people with Aphasia and their families and carers. Aphasia is a communication disorder or condition that makes it difficult to read, write or speak. It can happen after a stroke or following a brain injury. The help of a suitably trained district veterinary nurse is invaluable in supporting the meaningful bonds that people with aphasia have with their pets.

Sep 2019 - The Cat Weekend - ICatCare - ISFM

Sep 2019 - Rise 4 Disability - RISE is the most comprehensive regional disability exhibition & conference within the UK, uniting all disability services. I am so honoured to have been invited to give a presentation pitched at human doctors, nurses, occupational therapies of those with disabilities on district veterinary nursing. All thanks to the wonderful Ruth Milner, Danetre Health’s MD

April 2020 - A DVN stream of lectures at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association conference, which is mindblowing for me!

We have also had articles in the Vet Times and Vet Nursing Times, Animal Therapy Magazine, the Vet Record, Veterinary Practice, Oncore, ISFM Feline Focus magazine (about to be published), the Sunday Express national newspaper, BSAVA August Companion magazine.

Being a District Veterinary Nurse is not just about the animals, but you also need to be able to work with and communicate with owners who may mental health issues, disabilities or may have fallen on hard times. Tell us more about this?

I am a Dementia Champion which means I can give sessions to people to become Dementia Friends. I give this sessions for free as a volunteer for the Alzheimers Society - I have made quite a few vets, vet receptionists and vet nurses Dementia Friends, it is wonderful to see them wearing their badge. I would love for all veterinary practices across the UK to be Dementia Friends.

I am an advocate of the deaf community, assisting them with communications with their vets. Again, we have nothing in place to support easy communication. What a difference it would make if all veterinary practices had typetalk facilities and access to British Sign Language translators.

I outreach as a StreetVet  volunteer in Brighton providing free vet care to the homeless and their pets. We work alongside Sussex Homeless Support, whose founder, Jim Deans, is one of the most kind hearted humans I have ever met.

How do you see the DVN role developing?

My goal is to create a Society of District Veterinary Professionals. A not-for profit organisation with a charitable department for those who need it the most.

A community-led nursing programme will have a hugely positive impact on animal welfare, client support and communication and importantly strengthen the bond between veterinary practices and their owners. This initiative will enhance the services offered by the profession where the confines of the practice premises makes regular home visiting difficult and sometimes impossible. Our promotion and educational work will continue alongside many behind the scene projects that will hopefully lead to DVNs across the country either as a provision from within veterinary practices or, our ultimate aim, to make the DVN role a viable career pathway. I currently take referrals from vets / vet practices and work under their direction, it works well, so it is definitely an option. Human nurses make a career out of district nursing, so why can veterinary nurses?

You work by day as a veterinary nurse and then go out as a DVN. When do you sleep?

Very good question! Ha ha! I think I sleep standing like horses do!

I stop when the job is done. Currently I am swamped with vet referrals. If I do not provide this crucial veterinary nursing care to their clients often the only other option is that their patients could be euthanised. No vet worth his / her salt would want to break a loving and meaningful bond between a human and an animal if there is a sensible solution in place - I am that solution!

Post-surgery, diagnosis of a degenerative condition, short or long term illness, most animals will need home care by their owners between vet visits. This may not always be possible. Whether the owner suffers from a physical or mental disability or a horrendously busy working schedule of their own... whatever - everyone is entitled to be supported by a district veterinary nurse.

By 9am in the morning I usually have done 4 house visits to administer meds to patients - that is just the beginning of the day... I will not go on ... I get home about 10:30pm at night, then may need to catch up with last minute vet referral emails.

I can then sleep with great peace of mind for I have protected these bonds. Some days I cover a 20mile radius which is by no means what I want any DVN to cover - when established I would like teams of DVN’s all over the country, covering a 5 mile radius on shift pattern between the hourse of 6am to 10pm at night Monday to Sunday -- at present I am doing it all any day of the week I am needed.

How are vets responding to the DVN role?

Amazing. There is not one vet in this country or overseas that has said a bad thing about the vision and aims of the DVN campaign. They all tell me DVNs will be sent from heaven.

They support the Vision and Aims, those being:

  • That all owners and patients are offered district veterinary nursing support as part of a prescribed treatment plan when discharged from any veterinary premises
  • That all animals receive their veterinary treatment when the owner’s situation or the patient’s health may prevent this from being delivered by the owner
  • Without judgement and accessible to all. A District Registered Veterinary Nurse should be a vision of the “NOW” readily offered by vets no matter what the circumstances, to help support the veterinary profession in delivering the five freedoms and One Health One Welfare.
  • That District Registered Veterinary Nurses form part of social prescribing and contribute to the professions compliance with the Equality Act 2010.
  • That Registered Veterinary Nurses have a clear route for career progression and an alternative career path in different aspects of the community, with the opportunity to develop and utilise additional transferable skills

Tell us about a case you have dealt with as a DVN that has really stuck with you?

There are so many cases that in 4 years have been turned around. Each and every patient and owner mean everything to me. It is like I adopt them both and want to make sure they are so supported and that they know “You are not alone caring for your animal. We are here, the vet and I, we’ve got you! I’ve got you!” I have achieved remission on diabetic animals. I have ensure quality of life to cancer patients. I have tube-fed animals for disabled people. I have saved animals from having eyes enucleated because administering 3 different types of eye meds, spaced 15mins apart, 4 times a day - does require the skill set of a qualified veterinary nurse. I have been the support of pet owners with motor neuron disease and with dementia not able to medicate their animals.

#IfItWereYourAnimalCompanion how would you like to be supported if you were not able?

How can people get involved?

If you are a vet who wants DVNs or a RVN who wants to become a DVN then please get in touch. Contact information can be found at - www.carlafinzelvetnurse.com

Or you can simply support us, share our posts, our hashtags and if you have a few spare pennies you can support us through our crowd funding page - https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/carla-finzel

Do you have to be a VN to help or can other volunteer get involved?

With human district nurses DNs, you have to have been qualified and practising as a nurse for minimum of 2 years then you can progress onto further training to become a DN. District veterinary nurses DVNs would need training in dealing with vulnerable people, an essential part of the work.

There is tremendous need for suitably trained dog walkers and pet sitters which is not the work of a DVN - who does the nursing - I mean I assist the vet in putting in place the nursing plan of the patient and there can be alongside a dog walker or pet sitter to assist with that side of the care of the patient.

Should an non-qualified person be administering complex wound management care to a patient? Should a non-qualified person be doing physiotherapy on a patient? Absolutely not. It would not be like that with human patients.

I can be somebody’s mother but that does not qualify me to do a human district nurse job. If my child needed physiotherapy, you need a suitably qualified physiotherapist not just someone who is quite good at massage! The human oncology consultant would not expect the neighbour to pop in and be a Macmillan nurse - so why are pet owners expected to be all these things. Not only are they worried and upset, they also do not have the skillsset to do this level of nursing care properly and effectively.

We should all work as a multi-modal team to ensure the welfare of our patients and well-being of the pet owners and the veterinary teams on the front line who are so empathetic and compassionate towards their clients but do not have the outreach network of district veterinary nurses.

A DVN can work alongside organisations like StreetVet, PDSA, RSPCA, Cinnamon Trust and Our Special Friends. I collaborate with them when I am needed - under veterinary referral of course.

Carla qualified in 2001 as a veterinary nurse then worked in general practice for 5 years. She then progressed onto emergency and critical care full time on night shifts for 9 years at a referral vet hospital.

In 2015 she founded the DVN District Veterinary Nurse role and DVN Development Group. In 2018 she campaigned the movement of raising standards of veterinary nursing care, home-based nursing clinics, client concordance and embracing the human-animal bond within the veterinary profession.

She is a campaigner for One Welfare-One Health, so that veterinary practice and care becomes inclusive to all members of society, making veterinary practice compliant with the Equality Act 2010.

And finally she is an active volunteer for StreetVet. Advocate of the Deaf community. A Dementia Friend Champion and supporter of ‘Say Aphasia'

Animal Therapy Magazine