Champions for Change

Our series on “Champions for Change” will feature people of any gender in any role who are making a difference and creating positive change for women in the veterinary sector – enabling aspirations, inspiring and supporting others to grow and follow their passions, and empowering our community.

Racheal Marshall is head of clinical nursing at Vets Now, as well as the new coordinator for the Vets Now ECC Congress. Her work is aimed at creating diversity in vet nursing and helping nurses to expand their potential to stay motivated and engaged within the profession. Read on to find out more about how Racheal is championing change for veterinary nurses:

Please provide a brief bio/summary of your career story:

I qualified as a veterinary nurse in 2003 whilst working in a busy general practice where I remained for the next three years as Senior Nurse. After a short period working as a Lecturer in Veterinary Nursing & Animal Management, I returned to nursing as an Emergency & Critical Care (ECC) nurse working for Vets Now in 2008, moving onto roles including Principal Nurse Manager and District Manager. I achieved the Veterinary Nursing Certificate in Emergency and Critical Care in 2011 and in 2014 I took up my current position of Head of Clinical Nursing where I’m responsible for the clinical and professional standards of our veterinary nurses.

I was an elected member of the RCVS VN Council 2016-2020 and was the Chair of VN Council and a member of RCVS Council 2018-2020. I became a STEM school ambassador in 2019.

I’m one of the new programme coordinators for the Vets Now ECC Congress (taking place in Leeds in November), and we’re trying to make sure that the nursing streams are more prominent than ever before.

How are you working towards change in the veterinary professions and why do you feel this is important?:

In the role I’ve held at Vets Now for almost a decade, I’ve dedicated my time to helping our nurses achieve and expand their potential, by encouraging them to unlock and use all of their skills. I’m responsible for the strategic development of all of our nursing teams and I work as part of our Veterinary and Nursing Standards team to drive professional and clinical standards and help develop and offer industry-leading training and CPD.

In terms of current projects we have on the go which are instilling change, we’re working really progressively with regards to “nurse-led” practice, which is all about enhancing the nursing role within our clinics.  

I also led the set-up of our Ethnic Diversity Nursing Scholarship, now in its third year – which helps support people from ethnic minority backgrounds to start their career as veterinary nursing professionals. Open to people from ethnic minority backgrounds applying to enter one of the UK or ROI veterinary nursing colleges, successful candidates are awarded a £2,500 annual grant per year during their degree, mentoring from the Vets Now Ethnic Diversity Scholarship board members, and a support network to help them through their studies.

I’m also a STEM school ambassador for vet nursing so I regularly give talks to school age children. I’m all about demonstrating what a career in vet nursing is really like. We need to make sure our nurses of the future understand the opportunities of being a veterinary nurse and that it’s not all about fluffy puppies!

And finally, I’ve taken on the role of one of the ECC Congress coordinators this year.  The event is the most important date in the calendar year for ECC CPD in the UK, and I’m pleased that we’re launching the very first Advanced Nursing Stream at the Congress this year. We have been coming up with the concepts, selecting the speakers, deciding on topics and thinking about how the streams will look.

So in short, we’re a busy team.

“I feel really passionately that nurses hold the potential to make significant contributions in so many different ways.”

How do you feel this is making a difference?

Our efforts are making a tangible difference in a couple of important ways.

Firstly, we’re contributing to a greater diversity within our profession. While this might seem like a small step, it’s an essential one if we’re to truly and collectively effect change. It’s crucial that our field becomes more representative of the clients and communities we serve.

Secondly, our initiatives are helping to cultivate a sense of confidence and pride in our roles as nurses. This self-assurance not only keeps nurses engaged and motivated to stay within the profession but also encourages them to explore the various opportunities that lie ahead in their careers. I feel really passionately that nurses hold the potential to make significant contributions in so many different ways.

What motivated you to want to change things?

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years listening and reading that it’ll NEVER change. And I guess my motivation to drive change stemmed from me wanting to challenge this prevailing sentiment that change was impossible. 

And some of the challenges are stark – for example although around 14% of the working age population identity as minority ethnic, recent figures show only 3% of the veterinary professions are from such backgrounds.  So, it’d be easy to say, “How can I possibly make a marked difference to these numbers?”

But it’s evident to me that if we want change, we can’t be passive observers. We have to take an active role in pushing for the changes we want, even if the process is gradual.

So, I’ve learned to try and grab onto a broader perspective, envisioning a larger and more impactful profession, which has definitely inspired me over the years to try and lead from the front.

How have you encouraged other people to get on board with your ideas?

I hope those who have worked with me would say that open discussion is everything to me! I make it a priority to try and understand the obstacles others face and truly listen to their perspectives. It’s not about bringing people along on your vision – it’s instead trying to understand their own goals, then you can help guide people towards a vision that aligns with their own. So then we’re all on the journey together.

And to get on the same path successfully, at the same time you need to learn to frame your ideas in a way that resonates with the overarching priorities of your organisation/business/veterinary practice.

“It’s evident to me that if we want change, we can’t be passive observers. We have to take an active role in pushing for the changes we want.”

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in this journey and how have you overcome them?

Undoubtedly, one of the most persistent challenges has been the naysayers who resist change. It’s all too easy to get bogged down in the loudest voices, even if they aren’t the most constructive, so I do work hard to deal with scepticism head-on.

Managing time has been another hurdle – and I know this is a very female-bias problem. I think the wonderful people who make up our nursing profession by their very nature immerse themselves deeply in their work and this can often lead to a sense of all-consuming dedication. It’s essential to be able to step back, reevaluate, and gain perspective to prevent burnout. Personally, my perspective shifted when I had a baby (she’s nearly two) and took a year’s maternity leave. This pause allowed me to gather my thoughts better, and of course I’ve been forced to balance my time better now for the benefit of my family.

Racheal with Basil, the family dog

What has most helped and motivated you along the way?

The remarkable individuals I’ve had the privilege to work alongside, in particular, the strong women who have been such a big part of my professional life. The majority of my colleagues have been women, and their encouragement, support and challenge have been fundamental in propelling me forward. Inspirational figures like Amanda Boag who encouraged me and was a source of such guidance. Moreover, the unwavering support of my family has been an essential pillar in keeping me balanced and focused.

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or that you would give to someone else, about driving positive change?

The most impactful advice I’ve received and would wholeheartedly share, is the importance of active involvement. In such a female-dominated profession, it’s easy to succumb to imposter syndrome and believe that change is beyond your capabilities. I felt the same before launching our Ethnic Diversity Scholarship, or embarking on our nurse-led project. However, the only way to truly know is by trying. Taking the opportunities to engage and make a difference is crucial. Even if initial steps seem daunting, each and every one of our efforts contributes to the more progressive profession that we all want to work in.

What are your next steps to continue creating change for the better?

Looking ahead, my upcoming role as part of the UK’s leading ECC Congress is really exciting.   I’m proud of the learning opportunities that the format is offering our professions.

We have carefully tailored our programme again this year to provide an inclusive learning experience for vets and vet nurses no matter what stage they’re at in their career, from students through to specialists and everything in between. The biggest change this year, in our 20th year of running the ECC Congress, is an entire day dedicated to advanced referral nursing, and a very hands-on approach during all the CPD and practical workshops. 

Congress isn’t only about learning however. Congress helpfully reminds us (through a wellness and entertainment programme with things like mindfulness and a morning running club) that we as professionals need to look after ourselves first.

And on a wider perspective, the nursing profession is modernising, and it’s doing so at rapid pace – a pace I haven’t seen in my career before now. I’m excited to stay part of the change and helping navigate the challenges and opportunities in our field.

The Vets Now ECC Congress 2023 will be held between November 09 and 10 and online booking is live. Tickets range in price from £50+ VAT for exhibition-only tickets, up to £520+ VAT for a vet to attend for 2 days plus the Gala dinner. To book your ticket, go to

Our thanks to Katrin for sharing her inspiring story of how she is championing change. If you would like to nominate a Champion for Change or share your story, please let us know.

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Veterinary Woman ‘Champions for Change’

Veterinary Women In Leadership podcast – Amanda Boag

Champions for Change – Dr Katrin Jahn

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