Elephants a plenty – A walk in the park

Jason Gilchrist (also from Edinburgh Napier) and I are visiting Kerala to try and expand the activity of the School of Life, Sports and Social Science in the region. We have been warmly welcomed at all our meetings. On Monday we went for a walk and came across the high walls of the Vadakkunnathan Temple. Not being Hindus we couldn’t go in but we decided to circumnavigate the compound.

imageAs we went around the back of the compound the high walls gave way to lower garden walls, which we peered over. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t seven elephants starring back!  Later we met their keeper.

imageimageThe elephants are kept to take part in various religious festivals, we had just missed the Anayoottu’ festival last month.  Looks like Kendra’s choice of animals for the Send a Veterinary Nurse logo was very appropriate.

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Meet the team: Dr. Ajithkumar.S, Professor, Clinical Veterinary Medicine KVASU’

imageOn Monday I was warmly welcomed by Dr. Ajithkumar (on right above) Professor of Clinical Veterinary Medicine Kerala Veterinary & Animal Sciences University.  He directs the clinical operation of the Small Animal Hospital at the KVASU Manutthi Campus, where the Send a Veterinary Nurse Team will spend most of their time during their two weeks stay in Kerala.

The busy hospital sees 50 patients per day, from the local area and referrals from other clinics around Thirssur. There is an in patient hospital, operating theatres and a range of diagnostic facilities. Also there is a blue cross centre for rescued stray animals that is run by the veterinary students. The dogs in the rescue centre show all the signs of the hard life they have had living on the streets of Thirssur, but can at last enjoy regular food and some TLC from the veterinary students.


In contrast the patients that are bought to the clinic by their owners looked well cared for.  One thing I didn’t expect to see was an overweight Daschund!

I met with several veterinary technicians whilst I was there, easily recognised in their distinctive red lab coats, they were keen to meet with our students.

Dr. Ajithkumar told me more about the city centre veterinary clinic and arranged for me to go an meet the director there on Wednesday.

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From now and throughout the trip will be introducing ourselves, blogging our thoughts, ideas and feelings, along with our progress on fund raising to keep our supporters updated with all our news.

Please free to leave a comment or to start a discussion.

I am so delighted and excited to have been picked to go to India. The interview process was nerve racking but made very worth it by the elation of being successful.

So we are now bonding as a team and getting to know each other through fund raising days, meetings and team building activities.

As a mature student I’m keen to encourage others and to promote Veterinary Nursing to people who might be interested in a career change.

I am interested in teaching or coaching, animal welfare, ethics and the ‘one health’ concept as possible areas for career progression or further study. Going to India will allow me to investigate this further and to explore the role of the Veterinary Nurse in these fields.

The challenges of the trip are going to be numerous. India can be crazy, chaotic and all our senses will be stretched to the limit but this will be balanced by the friendly people, inquisitive children with long lashes, brown eyes and big smiles, the amazing food and some spectacular scenery. I am particularly excited about coconuts, chillies, wildlife, waterfalls and elephants!

While researching the area we are visiting, I was intrigued by an innocuous description of the ‘curly roads’. On further investigation, these turn out to be hair pin bends with unprotected edges tumbling into steep ravines. I have an HGV licence and can drive a lorry but I am a terrible passenger, so for me the transport will probably be my biggest challenge, apart of course from the animals.

Cultural attitudes towards animals in India are very different from what we are used to here. Being able to enhance the lives of the individual animals we meet, even in a small way will be incredibly rewarding. Being able, through education and collaboration with the Indian veterinary profession, to improve the lives and welfare of many future animals, in a long lasting and sustainable way would be an unbelievable privilege.

As student VNs we all care passionately about animal welfare and this trip will be an amazing opportunity to see how making small changes can have a big impact.

Working in this environment with limited and different resources will no doubt be personally and professionally challenging, but would result in great benefit to all involved.

Through being empathetic and non-judgmental we aim to raise awareness of animal sentience and improve the health and welfare of hospitalised in-patients which in turn will provide better patient outcomes for the veterinary staff.

As students we will be able to consolidate our knowledge by stripping nursing care back to its basics and in the process, our own skills and confidence will increase, benefiting the animals and the profession at home.

No doubt there will be sights and sounds that are distressing, worthwhile things aren’t always easy and I’m sure that we will all have occasional tough times. By talking, sharing and laughing we will support each other through the challenges, enabling us to make a real difference to animals living in extreme conditions.

We look forward to updating you on our adventures….


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Meet our experts: Karen Hibell RVN

karen pic Karen Hibell RVN qualified as a veterinary nurse through the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1994. 21 years of experience within the profession, ranging from large and small animal general practice to referral work, Karen has held a number of positions that include head nurse, senior orthopaedic theatre nurse and locum surgical nurse within referral environments to Curriculum Area Manager for Veterinary nursing within a FE college in England. Moving into teaching in 2001, Karen has taught and mentored students across a range of programmes and levels from Level one Animal Care through to Higher National Diploma, and veterinary nursing from veterinary care assistants to BSc (Hons) Veterinary nursing. Clinical interests include radiography, surgical nursing; particularly orthopaedic & spinal care, wound management and a newly found interest in cardiology. Originally from Edinburgh, after 17 years in Staffordshire, and a visit to Western Australia to assist for a short time with canine rehabilitation and hydrotherapy through a private referral service. Karen returned to Scotland in 2009 as Centre Manger for The College of Animal Welfare to continue her teaching and mentoring role with the aim of improving animal welfare though education. Remember you can support Karen and the team at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/send-a-vet-nurse-to-india  

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Meet our experts: Andrew Coe (MRCVS)

IMG_3048 Andrew Coe graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, London University and spent six years working in mainly small animal hospital practice in Gateshead and London. He then undertook an MSc.  in Tropical Veterinary Medicine at The Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine (CTVM), Edinburgh University, before working in Brazil for three years on a sheep development project for the British Government Overseas Development Administration. This initiative looked at the factors limiting lamb production on both large ranches and smallholder farms and at interventions to overcome them.  On returning to the UK he joined the State Veterinary Service in Scotland where he was later seconded to take up the position of head of the Falkland Islands Veterinary Service in 1995. Here he was responsible for providing a comprehensive clinical and regulatory service to the whole Falkland Islands’ archipelago. Andrew returned to the UK in 1999 and rejoined the Scottish State Veterinary Service where he had particular responsibility for monitoring farm animal welfare and enforcing the animal welfare legislation where necessary. He also worked on the field epidemiology of the major exotic disease outbreaks of Swine Fever in 2000, and Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001. Since 2011 he has lectured to Veterinary Nursing students at Edinburgh Napier University and the College of Animal Welfare. Main subject areas are Anatomy and Physiology, Pathology, Veterinary Ethics and human/animal relationships, and Laboratory Diagnostics.

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Student success for the Send a Veterinary Nurse Appeal


My name is Natalie Maxwell, I’m a second year Veterinary Nursing Student at Edinburgh Napier University.  I successfully applied to be part of the expedition to Kerala in November 2015.   To help me pay for the trip I applied for the Student Santander Mobility Grant through Edinburgh Napier Student Initiative scheme and amazingly received £750 towards personal accommodation, vaccines and a visa.

If any of my friends were asked to describe what I enjoy most in life, travelling the world and helping animals would, without a doubt, be top of the list! I am a confident traveler having previously experienced multiple developing countries first hand. I feel this will put me in good stead for India where the climate, sanitation and home comforts are a huge contrast to the UK. Travelling has taught me to be open minded, aware of my surroundings, compassionate and to keep hydrated! It has opened my eyes to the vast difference in priority of animal welfare between countries, often due to poverty, ultimately fueling my drive to improve animal welfare however I can.

My enthusiasm for the expedition is greatly influenced by my ambition to apply for a postgraduate degree in animal welfare overseas upon completion of my Honours degree. Going to Kerala is an opportunity that will be the basis and ideally a springboard for my own career development, whilst allowing the UK veterinary nurses’ role to evolve and be recognised as a worldwide profession by sharing my experience. Furthermore, it will allow self exploration, personal growth and a real, exciting sense of achievement. The trip to Kerala veterinary hospital will build my confidence on teaching others within a first hand learning experience in another contrasting society, while testing my problem solving skills when adapting to the environment or facilities.

Our visit should make the Indian veterinary team recognise the veterinary nurse as a vital role in the maintenance of a functional veterinary hospital. By passing on our expertise over the past two years of training, we will help the Indian veterinary technicians underpin the basic but essential care of patients, clinical skills and handling. This will allow them the chance to pass their knowledge gained on to others to hopefully motivate change, be it patient care or Indian nursing career development. We can introduce them to the five freedoms framework and how to achieve these by making use of the limited facilities or recycling to work with financial constraints, subsequently benefitting patient welfare and quality of life, either by minimal suffering or environmental enrichment. We can teach the veterinary team about the mutual benefit of animal welfare, for example, if simple patient care is improved then there will be a higher success rate of patient recovery.

This trip to teach in Kerala veterinary hospital will allow me to evolve as a person, boost my professional career assets and challenge me emotionally and professionally. My enthusiasm for animal welfare is conveyed in all aspects of my life, solidifying my commitment to exceed to be the best veterinary nurse I can be, whilst educating others along the way.

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Meet our experts: Hayley Walters RVN

Hayley and Stewart

Hayley Walters RVN qualified as a veterinary nurse through the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1999.

She spent 10 years in mixed animal practice before leaving England in 2006 to work for Animals Asia in China. Animals Asia is a charity that rescues Moon bears from bile farms and after months of surgery and rehabilitation work, releases them into semi-natural enclosures. She spent 3 years working in China and occasionally Vietnam, with bears and also managed several dog rescue projects whilst there; dogs that were displaced after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and 149 dogs confiscated from an illegal meat trader.

In 2009 Hayley returned to the UK and small animal practice but continued to fund raise and give presentations on the work of Animals Asia and the role of the veterinary nurse in animal welfare.  In 2012 she moved to Edinburgh, Scotland to take up a new position as a Welfare and Anaesthesia veterinary nurse at the teaching hospital of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. Hayley splits her time between animal welfare work in the UK and overseas for the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education (JMICAWE) and assisting in anaesthesia in the purpose built small animal teaching hospital. Hayley is responsible for training veterinary students and visiting veterinarians in all aspects of animal welfare, handling, anaesthesia and pain management.

Remember you can support Hayley at  www.crowdfunder.co.uk/send-a-vet-nurse-to-india


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