The practice manager at a leading Derbyshire vet surgery has just marked three decades of helping care of sick and injured pets.

Helen Clarke began her career at Linnaeus-owned Chapel House Veterinary Practice as a student veterinary nurse in 1994 and is now a key member of the senior leadership team.

Helen said: “I’ve been here at Chapel House for 30 years now and it holds a very special place in my heart.

“I helped start and build up the practice from scratch and we still have original clients who keep coming back with new family additions.

“Having that personal connection with our clients and their pets is very special and really rewarding.”

That is, unless it’s a troublesome skunk which makes its own powerful and pungent protest at being clinically examined, of course!

Helen recalled an infamous incident at the practice, saying: “A skunk was brought in and during the clinical exam expressed its anal glands.

“Within seconds the consultation room was uninhabitable because of the stench, which then proceeded to spread throughout the whole practice and remained for well over a month!

“The wall in the consultation room had to be cleaned and repainted, while the staff uniforms had to be disposed of, as no amount of washing would remove the smell.

“That’s one of my most memorable cases. Another unforgettable case was when we treated a ‘female’ terrier dog who presented with urinary issues and a swelling protruding out of her vulva.

“We investigated and found the protrusion was actually a penis and she also had testicles in her uterine wall, not ovaries.

“We removed those internal, reproductive organs but left the ‘penis’ in situ so she would still be able to urinate normally and she went on to live a long and happy life despite having both sets of sex organs.”

Helen has seen a myriad of changes in the veterinary profession over three decades, including the expanding role for registered vet nurses (RVNs) and the opportunities for career progression into more senior roles and positions of responsibility.

She added: “Veterinary nursing and veterinary medicine have certainly come a long way since the 1990s.

“Older vets were very hesitant about delegating clinical tasks early in my career. I think they felt the RVNs role was more as a cleaner/receptionist/housekeeper, rather than integrating their combined knowledge to improve patient care.

“Now, I love how the roles of RVNs are evolving, the respect they receive from colleagues and the wide understanding of their RVN role and potential.

“However, I know more can be done here, as protecting the title of RVNs is paramount. Currently anyone can call themselves a vet nurse, which undermines all the hard work and training that comes with those who are fully qualified.

“It is amazing what an RVN can now do in their own right and the services we can provide directly to clients with education and preventive health clinics.

“I feel clients also respect the role now, as for many years I used to get asked ‘are you training to be a vet?’ as they didn’t understand the nurse’s function in practice.

“I really hope in the future our role can be expanded further to allow even more responsibility with the added duties to assist vets with prescribing for minor ailments and routine vaccinations.”

Helen has certainly worked hard to progress her own knowledge and understanding during her career and enjoyed real progression in her role at Chapel House Vets, which has practices in Chesterfield and Staveley.

She has a BTEC in animal care, is a qualified RVN, a D32 +D33 assessor, clinical coach, attained ILM Level 3 Coaching and Mentoring, ILM Level 5 Leadership and Management and successfully completed her Linnaeus LEAP Leadership training.

Now, as Chapel House’s practice manager, she has a significant input into the running of the practice and is reveling in the post.

She explained: “As an RVN in a practice manager position, and part of our senior leadership team, I am empowered to drive the practice and its standards upwards and onwards.

“I am given the opportunities to voice my ideas and opinions to help better improve our practice protocols, champion the reception team, drive practice growth and our client interactions.”

Helen’s not just hit her targets career wise, though. She is equally successful away from work and has been Derbyshire ladies prone rifle champion at 50m, 50 yds and 100yds discipline for the past seven years.

She’s also a regularly clay pigeon shooter around the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire area and is a member at her local CrossFit box group.

Chapel House Vets is a dedicated small animal veterinary practice and its clinical team has a broad range of expertise in providing top quality pet care. For more information, visit www.chapelhousevet.co.uk or search for Chapel House Veterinary Practice on Facebook.

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