Many courses at Askham Bryan will include a placement, often placements are needed in order to qualify for your course, these can be done as day release or as a sandwich year to gain the practical experience required once you graduate.
Veterinary nursing is one of those courses, I applied to complete the Foundation Degree in Veterinary nursing, and in order to be accepted on the course I needed adequate qualifications (which I didn’t have, so I completed a year long “Introduction to veterinary nursing at Askham Bryan”) in addition I completed a 4 week work placement in a veterinary practice.
Finding a 4 week placement can be hard but it is certainly doable. However, when it comes to your sandwich year you need to do a lot of the leg work, get in there early and make yourself stand out from the crowd. The university will assist you in finding a placement, however, this could be anywhere in the UK. If you want to live at home and have minimal responsibilities then finding your own placement is the way to go.
So how can I increase my chances of finding a placement?
I for one found covering letters a drag, and I quickly got sick of rewriting it, however ensuring it is bespoke will make you stand out from the crowd. Remember for the employer it is the first thing they see and can decide if they want to keep reading. Make your covering letter personal ensuring the practice feels like it’s for their eyes only and that you have done your research on their establishment.
For example, if they specialise in exotic veterinary then tell them how interested you are in exotic nursing, if they work with equine then focus your cover letter on your experience and handling of horses.
Veterinary nursing CV’s are slightly different to most CV’s, they need to be direct and relevant, the head veterinary nurse doesn’t have time to be reading pages and pages of information. If you have worked or volunteered in a variety of job roles, cater your CV to job roles that can be transferred to veterinary nursing.
However, don’t be put off if you have minimal animal experience, a large part of veterinary nursing is customer service and working with the public, as well as cleaning and keeping a tidy practice. Showing the practice that you are approachable to both the public and your colleagues, and are adept at being part of team is going to go a long way in getting a placement.
When you start your higher education course in September you will get told to start looking and applying for a placement around Christmas time, from personal experience don’t wait that long. Try and get your foot in the door before everyone else, placements in veterinary nursing are very competitive. When applying for a placement not only are you competing against other HE students, you also have diploma students, newly qualified veterinary nurses and experienced nurses who have been in the game for a long time.
Don’t hide behind technology and the postal service … if you are struggling to secure a placement make an appearance at the surgery and make them remember you! Ask if you can come in to practice and do a trial day. I’m not suggesting bribery, but a VN who’s not had a break in 8 hours, is going to love you forever if you rock up with a tasty cake and make endless cups of tea!
If you do secure an interview, smart casual attire is totally acceptable, do your research on the practice and think of a few questions they might ask you in advance, such as; why do you want to do your placement with them? What hands on experience have you had in practice? Don’t be afraid to ask your own questions about shift patterns, uniforms, working hours and if the practice runs out of hour’s surgery. One thing to note is that for a foundation degree in veterinary nursing is very rare to get paid on a sandwich course placement, so be prepared to have a financial plan in place for the year and consider things such as the cost of travel.
It might sound daunting and a lot like handwork but securing a placement will get you one step closure to working with animals and doing a job that really makes a difference.