Nicola Lakeman is an RVN and Nutrition Manager at IVC Evidensia, as well as a consultant editor for The Veterinary Nurse. She also fits in freelance writing, lecturing and consultancy work. She has won the Bruce Vivash Jones Veterinary Nurse Award from the BSAVA for her outstanding contributions to small animal veterinary nursing and will receive her award at BSAVA Congress in March 2024.

On her award win, Nicola commented: “Nurse consulting has always been a huge passion of mine and its importance in animal welfare, owner education and improving clinical outcomes cannot be underestimated. Helping to spread the knowledge of consultation skills really enables more RVNs to consult and help more animals.”

With a career of over 30 years, starting with Equine Science, continuing through work as an RVN in mixed, farm and equine practices, to a Master’s degree in Advanced Veterinary Nursing, activities on professional committees and her recent award win, Nicola talks through her successes and challenges and demonstrates how taking an active part in the profession can lead to a progressive and highly fulfilling career.

Please summarise your journey / biography:

I graduated from Hartpury College with an honours degree in Equine Science, and subsequently qualified as a veterinary nurse in 2002. I have written for many veterinary publications and textbooks and am the editor of Aspinall’s Complete Textbook of Veterinary Nursing. I am one of the Consultant Editors for The Veterinary Nurse.

I have recently gained a Master’s degree in Advanced Veterinary Nursing with Glasgow University. I started working at Plymouth Veterinary Group in 2002, after working previously in mixed, farm and equine practices. I have undertaken consultancy posts at the VMD and sat on various committees for BVA, BSAVA and BVNA.

Describe your typical day from waking to sleeping:

My typical day really does vary depending on what is on, what the weather is doing and what time of year we are in. I work nearly full time for IVC Evidensia as the Nutrition Manager – and get pulled in to help with lots of other areas not just nutrition; but I am also self-employed. All of my writing, lecturing and some consultancy work makes up some of my time. My time is my own, my work hours flexible and just having two dogs to walk means if the weather is good, lunchtime walks on the beach are in.

How would you describe yourself in a sentence?

Someone that will try and help everyone else out first before even starting my own work.

How would others describe you in a sentence?

I asked my partner Gavin and he said…Organised, approachable, rational, forward thinker, sensible, punctual and reliable.

What has been your top success and what have you learned from this?

The number of RVNs and vets that are out there in the profession that I have had some role in their training. Over 30 years in the industry, you end up training lots of students and helping lots of people to learn. My top success is not something I achieved for me, but rather I get the most joy from seeing others achieve their goals.

“My top success is not something I achieved for me, but rather I get the most joy from seeing others achieve their goals.”

What has been your biggest challenge, setback or failure and how have you overcome it? How did you grow or change as a result?

Trying to implement change in the workplace – although you might think that it is a good idea, others might not. Learning to adapt, alter plans, appease some or even dropping some plans to allow others to achieve is sometimes required.

What compromises have you had to make and what, if anything, could have helped?

Everyone who is a parent has to make compromises – this is the same whether you are a Head Nurse, a manager or any form of leader. I have had to make countless compromises and sometimes these are 100 per cent necessary for the greater good of your family or work team. Compromise is a good thing.

What advice would you have given to your younger self, that you would now give to others wanting to follow your path?

Learn and then spread that knowledge, don’t be afraid of new ideas and receiving feedback – without feedback how can we improve?

 I couldn’t have got where I am today without…

Knowing that there were people that I could ask for help if I needed it.

What are your three top likes?

People who smile back, or say hello back when you walk past them and say “Morning!”

Yummy food

When everyone is back home – child back from college, partner back from sea.

What are your three top dislikes?

People who are closed minded and not receptive, but more than happy to impart their views and opinions.

Chocolate that someone has put into the fridge – it must be room temperature.

Inequality – when there’s one rule for one and one for another.

What is the most helpful book you’ve read and why?

My most helpful book was actually a book I read as a child. I didn’t realise how much it had shaped me until I was older. I still have my original copy, and I have read it many times. It teaches you about human interactions, succeeding (or not) and other people’s motivations.

The Bird of the Golden Land by Robert Nye

Many thanks to Nicola for sharing her story to inspire veterinary women to aspire and grow into their full career potential.

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