Sharing stories provides support. When we asked veterinary nurse Jade a first time mum, about juggling the demands of career, family, returning to work during the Covid pandemic following maternity leave and the dreaded sleep deprivation, she was happy to share her story, giving honest and revealing answers to our questions.

Why did you choose this career? I have always had a love for animals. I spent most of my school holidays as a child on my nan’s small holding. She kept a range of species from horses, cats, dogs, chickens, ducks and even a peacock or two! 

What route did you take to qualify as a veterinary nurse? I studied the level 3 diploma in Veterinary Nursing. I started straight from leaving school. This was carried out partly at Pershore College and finished at Solihull College.

What is your current position and how long have you worked there? I am a registered veterinary nurse and I have worked at the same veterinary hospital for 8 years.

Calm, confident, resilient, caring and hard working are some of the words frequently  used to describe the personal attributes needed for nursing. In your experience which one of this qualities is most important in your job? All of the above. There are many emotions involved in every aspect of nursing care in general, so all of these attributes are important in their own way.

Toby is now 2 years of age. How long was your maternity and what were your reasons for returning to work when you did? My maternity was for the usual time period of 9 months and I returned due to cost of living.

What was the most difficult aspect of returning to work as a new mum? Having to transition from changing nappies, bottle feeding and baby talk to communicating professionally with clients and colleagues and basically putting my focus on to other daily tasks. I just felt I was a tad slow with getting up to speed with everything and always questioning everything I was doing. Also, my control of care for Toby. I had gotten him in to a set routine, it was very hard for me to hand that routine over.

During this transitional period in your life, who formed part of your support circle? Family and work colleagues.

Your return to work coincided with the outbreak of Covid in early 2020. Changes had to be made within the workplace during the pandemic. How much additional stress did this place on you and did it have any impact on your ability to do your job? If anything, it did make returning to work a little better as I did not have the pressures of physically meeting clients all of the time. It gave me time to settle back in to the specific role of nursing. We were working in two teams at the time, so it was sad not to work with half of my colleagues. I really do ‘take my hat off’ to my colleagues that worked through the original lock down. They did not stop and all did such a great job.The stress of working through the pandemic did not really hit me as we were very busy.  I did not have time to think about the stress. My main problem was tiredness.

Can you describe how these changes within the workplace affected you physically, mentally and emotionally? As explained previously, I think the tiredness was the main challenge. I am definitely an 8 hour a night sleeper and I certainly need that to function. The sleep deprivation really did affect all three of the above, rather than the stresses of lockdown.

Did you experience a loss of confidence, feel overwhelmed or anxious about returning to work following your career break? Yes, definitely a loss of confidence and it does still continue to this day in some aspects. There was a constant feeling of being overwhelmed also. 

What is the most difficult aspect of being a full time working veterinary nurse and a parent to a toddler? Trying to share your time (and mind) between work and toddler, maintaining a household and having time for your partner when he also has an intense work load. I know that this is normal life, but I am one to live by lists of my daily jobs and sometimes not everything can be listed, which really throws me off course!

There isn’t a manual that tells you how to balance career and motherhood, so do you have any advice or tips that you can share with other veterinary nurses who are considering starting a family? Learn to take each day as it comes, don’t be too judgmental on yourself and do look to other colleagues or family members for support, they really do pull your mind and thoughts away from doubting yourself. At the end of the day, I have a very happy spoilt toddler, a loving home and family and I  work with wonderful work colleagues every day.