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.

Tara Ryan is Chief Veterinary Nursing Officer at CVS. She is responsible for over 3,000 veterinary nurses working in the UK, Ireland, The Netherlands and Australia and her aim is to ensure that nurses are inspired to be the nurse they want to be within the profession, wherever they work in the world.

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

Tara Ryan

I have worked in the veterinary profession for 23 years. It all began at 14 years old when I started work experience in my local practice. I had always wanted to work with animals and a passion for animal welfare has been deep in my heart from a child.

My first practice gave me a good grounding – and enabled me to move into my next role as Head Nurse in my first CVS practice. I loved my HVN role and loved working with my team. This for me was where it all started.

I have always been very determined to be the best I can be and to utilise my nursing skills to their full potential. I’ve always wanted to try new things and make as much of a difference as I can – supporting the vets and nurses to get where they wanted to be and to showcase what nurses are capable of through my colleagues. Alongside my passion for animals and people development, at the heart of this is a passion for our profession and veterinary business as a whole.

In 2012 I was one of the first of four RVN clinical directors in CVS, something I am still very proud of today.  I worked extremely hard to prove myself as a nurse and a competent and capable leader. From here I went on to multi-site management as clinical director, still working in clinical practice across Norfolk and Suffolk.

In 2018 I had the opportunity to apply for the Regional Director role in Norfolk and Suffolk. This had been a dream job of mine, to be able to make a difference to hundreds of colleagues across a bigger geographical region.  In this role I was able to provide leadership and guidance to our practice leaders, supporting them in the day-to-day in the running of our practices. But first and foremost my role was to ensure we are all doing our very best to deliver on our purpose and vision – to give the best possible care to animals and to be the vet company people most want to work for.

Then in early 2023, I took the plunge to stretch myself further again. I was successful in my application as Chief Veterinary Nursing Officer. I am now responsible for over 3,000 nurses, and my geographical area has expanded across the UK, ROI, NI, Netherlands and Australia.

Please summarise how you are working towards change in the veterinary professions and why do you feel this is important?

I believe as a profession it is our duty to ensure our vets and nurses are offered fulfilling careers and are supported where they want to develop their skills.

I started my role as Chief Veterinary Nursing Officer in July 2023 and since this time I have been working on a Nursing Career Pathway with some of our amazing RVN colleagues.

The pathway has been created to inspire nurses to be the nurse they want to be within our profession, wherever they work in the world.

The pathway has been created to demonstrate to newly qualified RVNs all of the development opportunities available to them in clinical practice throughout their career. The pathway supports each stage with a suggested curriculum to bolster their experience, competence and confidence at different clinical activity levels. It also demonstrates all of the possible career opportunities available to them to allow nurses to see that they can have a lifelong career within the profession. We want all of our nurses to feel included and supported at all stages of their career.

“It’s always the smallest steps, not the giant leaps that bring positive lasting change.”

We also have a Clinical Advisory Committee made up of 12 sub-groups. During the last three months I have recently appointed 12 nursing members to our Nursing Committee and the group now has representation from small animal, referral and equine nursing. We have created this to ensure a flexible and inclusive environment for all colleagues and to facilitate discussion, share information and collate views. The committee has already reviewed several products and is helping to shape the future of CVS and the wider profession.

I am extremely lucky to have the support and autonomy from our senior leaders to drive veterinary nursing forward. I feel we are in the infancy of further changing the way we support our nurses. The pathway is the beginning but there is so much more exciting work to be done. My role as CVNO is to showcase to veterinary teams what impact nurses can have, and to make waves in really moving the profession forward by creating awareness of the incredible nurses we have in practice and across the veterinary profession, and their capabilities.

How do you feel this is making a difference?

I want our nurses to stay within our profession and to see that they can have a fulfilling and rewarding career for life. Transparency around opportunities and what development is available is key, alongside clear direction and support from their leaders.

Inclusivity is also important. I think it is incredible that in CVS, our nurses get to decide what products, equipment and protocols are right for us. We have such talent in our nurses and it is fantastic that we get to ask the right people the right questions.

This will make such a difference to retention, job satisfaction and passion for the profession.

What motivated you to want to change things?

Animal welfare, a passion for being an RVN, and the talented nurses I have the pleasure of working alongside. I know we can do so much more. The future is going to be very exciting for veterinary nursing.

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

Honesty and clarity about where I want us to get to. We won’t get there over night, but we will get there. I am listening to what RVN’s want and I will make change.

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

My biggest challenge is tempering my own drive for where I want to get our profession to – in ensuring our nurses have the opportunities for exciting careers. I have so many ideas but have to keep telling myself it’s a journey and I can’t do everything right now!

What has most helped and motivated you along the way?

The hundreds of talented nurses I have met over the years and the past few months. We have the most incredible talent in our company. I have been so lucky to meet many wonderful people over the past few weeks and I can’t wait to discover more. They inspire me every day to do more!

I also work with an incredibly inspiring and motivating Chief Veterinary Officer, Paul Higgs. It’s easy to stay motivated when you are as passionate about quality of care and our profession as we are.

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

It’s always the smallest steps, not the giant leaps that bring positive lasting change.

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

Keep learning. Keep sharing. Keep driving positive change forward.

In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2024, we assembled a collection of ‘Champions for Change’ profiles into a free eBook. Explore exclusive stories highlighting inspirational figures driving positive change for women in veterinary.

Our thanks to Tara 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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