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We caught up with RVN Sarah Coton to find out more about her. Sarah has been qualified and working with animals for an amazing 45 years, so she has some tales to tell!

Q: What’s your job title and how long have you worked at Avonvale?

A: I'm an RVN (Registered Veterinary Nurse). I qualified as a RANA (Registered Animal Nursing Auxilliary - the title Veterinary Nurse wasn’t recognised until 1984) in 1976. After qualifying I worked with racehorses for 6 years, then joined what was then Thorne, Thursby-Pelham & Thorpe Veterinary Surgeons at Wellesbourne in 1982. 2 years later I moved to the new Warwick surgery at 27 Cape Road to work with enthusiastic young vet, Anita White and initially one other, part time, nurse. I was head nurse at Warwick till a year or so before transferring to the new Stratford surgery at the end of 2014 and have been there ever since, gradually reducing my hours as I trundle towards retirement and now just doing two days a week.

Q: Why do you like working for Avonvale? What do you look forward to most at work?

A: At Avonvale there is a friendly working atmosphere and great colleagues. Being part of a close-knit team within a long-standing practice with high standards of care and a great reputation is important to me. I enjoy the variety of challenges and the fact that no two days are the same, and the feeling of being able to make a difference to animals and their owners. Working only two days a week and living on my own, my time at work has been a lifeline during lockdown and I look forward to work mostly now for the contact with clients and colleagues. I feel blessed that after getting on for 40 years nursing I still love my job and am not really looking forward to retirement!

Q: What are the least favourite parts of your job? 

A: Admin! Which, happily, I don’t have to do much of these days.

Q: What made you want to do this job?

A: I grew up with a variety of animals and from a very young age never wanted to do anything else, other than be a vet or work with horses. Having been actively discouraged both by my school and my parents from becoming a vet (in those days, very few vets were women and it was very much seen as a male profession) and without the necessary A-levels to go to university, I stubbornly approached a local practice demanding a job – they took me on and so I began my career as a veterinary nurse. Although originally accepting this as second best, I have absolutely no regrets, and think I make a far better nurse than I would have a vet.

Q: What do you do to turn things around when you’re having a bad day?

A: Try to keep a sense of humour. Eat lots of chocolate!

Q: If you could be any animal what would you be and why?

A: My dog, Dipper. He’s thoroughly molly-coddled in his old age, has all his meals prepared for him, gets lots of cuddles, hasn’t a care in the world and even now at age 12 gets ridiculously excited at the prospect of a walk!

Q: What’s the biggest misconception people have about your position?

A: I think most people don’t really know what a veterinary nurse actually does. It’s been many years since I personally have been asked if I’m training to be a vet, but I know that still frequently happens to some younger nurses – people don’t realise that our role is completely different to that of the vets. Other people comment that it must be lovely to cuddle animals all day – and yes, it IS lovely to be able to spend time with the patients. But veterinary nurses are highly trained professionals with a whole set of skills and responsibilities – we are everything from infection controllers to anaesthetists and intensive care nurses, and for every cute cuddly puppy there’s a hissing, spitting feral cat or a large aggressive dog that wants to eat us – all in a day’s work!

Q: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

A: I’ve ridden a Grand National winner and a horse that came second. (OK – the winner was West Tip who I rode a couple of times after he retired from racing and the horse that came second was Spartan Missile, second to Aldaniti in 1981 when I was working with racehorses, and I rode him out at exercise regularly).

Q: What’s something you saw recently that made you smile?

A: A fluffy German Shepherd puppy – just can’t resist!

Q: What’s your guilty pleasure?

A: Northmoor gin from a little distillery just outside Dulverton in Somerset - I stock up during my annual week spent on Exmoor each autumn - and Fevertree tonic!

Thanks to Anna for giving us an insight into her life and background. We hope you enjoyed reading.

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