Monday, June 23, 2014

Interview with Domestic Pet Goddess Amy Flint

Veterinary nurse Amy Flint with a very, very tiny patient.
I met vet nurse Amy Flint at the AVA Conference in May. She was the only delegate with a dog (Wicket, an assistance dog in training) so naturally she was mobbed. She offered to submit to SAT's probing questions about her interesting career in veterinary nursing and starting her own business for patients who don't cope so well in the hospital setting,

Hi Amy, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and your background as a vet nurse? 
I am a registered veterinary nurse and have been in the industry over 16 years. As a kid I spent every Saturday on my grandparents working property, and the school holidays looking after neighours pets. I fell into vet nursing after a close family friend, knowing my love of animals, suggested I apply at her clinic where they were looking for a kennel hand. So at the tender age of 14 I started my first job, not knowing the career it would turn into!! Walking into a clinic over-powered by the pungent odour of parvovirus; that is a memory well scarred to my brain, didn't deter me and I continued to learn in a busy 4 vet general practice which has given me the foundation which I still rely upon to this day. 
During this time I also became heavily involved in my local dog training club (ACT Companion Dog Club), completing my Instructors course the same year I completed my Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing. Working alongside a veterinarian with a strong interest in dog behaviour gave me the opportunity to learn volumes about dog behaviour and be at the forefront of modern training techniques and puppy training.
Wanting to see the world and leave my home town, but acutely aware of the resposibility I had taken on when I got my keeshond Kaz; I opted to move to Melbourne where I found myself discovering the nightowl world of emergency care and dipping my toes into dermatology (my tendency to faint from overheating in surgical attire has for many years ruled out any commitment to surgical nursing).
Kaz the Keeshond.
Having been bitten by the emergency bug I moved to Perth in 2008 to follow my interests in emergency nursing. Not only have I been able to fullfill my aspirations and complete my Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Emergency & Critical Care), I also fell in love with Perth and now call it my hometown.
Kaz is still by my side and was joined a number of years ago by the man of the house Holstein, a DSH rescued from work. More recently Mr Marmalade, a DMH ginger who was also rescued; who due to his attitude spent many years in foster care, has solidified his place in my home.Outside of animal related pursuits I am currently studying photography and am keen to shake of my L plates and become a bonefide kiteboarder.
Amy's pictures from her kiteboarding holiday. OMG. Jealous.
What is "Domestic Pet Goddess" and who can use this service?
Domestic Pet Goddess is a mobile veterinary nursing service located in Perth, WA. It is a personalised service dedicated to helping owners provide the optimal care for their fur family, without having to compromise. 
Anyone across the Perth Metro region can readily access my services, I would also encourage those a little further a field to still make enquiries as I am willing to travel, depending upon my client load. Alternatively, depending upon the assistance required I can consult via phone or skype. My focus when nursing any patient is wholistic as opposed to holistic as I don't believe just one thing can make a patient feel better. I combine the many aspects of general nursing, treatment options and behavioural understanding to build and maintain the best relationship a client can have with their furkid/s, whether I'm needed for a day or several weeks.
Amy with a patient in hospital.
How did the idea for this come about?
The concept is one that had been on my mind for many years. All too often I've had patient's in my care and kept hospitalised longer because the owners don't feel comfortable, or are unable to manage the care on their own at home. I've always considered myself lucky as a VN, because if one of my furkids is sick I get to stay with them, however this is impractical in the veterinary hospital setting for clients. I wanted to be able to give everyone access to the same kind of care that I would give and want for my furkids. 
Patient blood pressure tends to be increased in the hospital setting.
Why is it so important for some animals to have in-home care?
In home nursing care is important for a variety of reasons and isn't only about the patient. As companion animals, who are part of our family we like to provide the same level of health care that we ourselves recieve, but being in hospital is distressing and not the ideal healing environment. Care provided may be as simple as administrating medications, through to dressing & bandage care and managing feeding tubes through to intensive recumbent patient care. Our relationships with our furkids are so precious and not a bond that we want to crush, so sometimes its just a case of "being the bad person" so that the client can maintain their loving relationship.

Some patients require involved at-home care.
What are the unique challenges that in-home care raises and what skill set does one require to deal with these?

The most challenging aspect to in home care is working outside of a fully equipped hospital. No matter how much you prepare your patient and the setting will always provide challenges and problem solving is in high demand; I have discovered curtain rods make a great make-shift fluid stand. I lean upon my years of experience every day from knowing how to approach the fiesty feline, through to knowing how to make that dressing stick.

Home care can make all the difference.
You're currently fostering an assistance dog. Can you tell us a bit about him?
I am a volunteer Puppy Educator for Assistance Dogs Australia; who provide trained dogs to people with physical disabilities to help them gain independent lifestyles. 

My current charge is Wicket a rambunctious 8 month old Black Labrador. As Puppy Educators our role is to socialise, train and provide the foundations so that when they are 16 months old and return to headquarters, they are ready to be formally trained and matched with a recipient. Its a tough but rewarding job and Wicket is both a challenge and delight to have as part of the family. His worst habit is his desire to chew anything and if I'm not on my toes I find his collection of items half chewed in his bed!! A somewhat strange challenge for me is his tail! I've only owned spitz breeds which carry their tails on their backs - Wickets waggy tail clears the coffee table and almost gets caught in doors!

Wicket. Cutest L-plater ever.
You have numerous qualifications in nursing and experience working in major clinics. How would you like to see veterinary nursing in Australia develop?

I'd like to see veterinary nursing evolve into a well recognised paraprofession. Nearly everyone I meet asks me "when am I starting vet school?", and I know I'm not the only VN to be asked this! We are still referred to by clients as the vet's "secretary" or "assistant", yet as nurses we are so much more and have such a range of abilities and knowledge. Its very disheartening giving your all for a patient or situation, only to be glanced over by public perception as an insignificant part of the veterinary team.
Some of the roles vet nurses play...(I love chew toy!)
Behind that friendly smile that greets you is a powerhouse of compassion, empathy, patience and knowledge. Our key focus is patient advocacy and care and though we may multitask to a range of ancillary duties such as reception and practice management, it doesn't change our primary desire to to assist animals in need and provide preventative health care.
Do you have any advice for veterinarians, nurses or pet owners? 
Vets: Never underestimate your nursing teams' abilities and take a moment each day to recognise their work.

Nurses: Follow your passions and skill sets. Never EVER stop learning.

Pet owners: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stop rushing to google or facebook for medical advice. Seek veterinary advice (yes this includes advice from your veterinary nurse) early. Prevention is always better than cure and all to often in the emergency setting I see patient outcomes that could have been very different and less financially distressing if treatment had been sought earlier. Sometimes it may be frustrating to hear the best advice is to have your veterinarian check your pet over, however we need to be able to examine your pet to get the full picture.

Thank you Amy! I hope your business continues to grow. Meantime Amy is currently raising funds to trek with orang-utans and aid conservation efforts in the process. Tax time is coming up so its a very good time to support this cause - check out her page here. Or see the article which appeared in the paper below.