A specialist small animal hospital in Surrey has implemented an innovative new nursing structure which it believes will enable positive career pathways and provide ‘gold standard’ support for its 90-strong nursing team.

North Downs Specialist Referrals (NDSR), in Bletchingley, has chosen Vet Nurse Awareness Month to launch the pioneering new model, which, along with the appointment of a new Head of Nursing Services, places a real emphasis on work-life balance, defined career progression and the overall roles and importance of vet nurses and nursing assistants.

The model, which will see the nursing team at NDSR increase by around five per cent, has been hailed as overwhelmingly positive by Head of Nursing Services, Lauren Emmett, with opportunities for progression throughout the nursing team.

As part of the new structure, NDSR has introduced four Nurse Manager roles with specific operational, quality, pastoral and training responsibilities, as the Linnaeus-owned practice creates a more flexible career pathway for RVNs and Nursing Assistants, across the business.

The motivation is to encourage nursing staff, from all areas of the practice to develop career pathways which play to their strengths and personal interests, with job shares also available.

Lauren said: “We’re over the moon to be launching what is a really innovative new structure here at NDSR. It moves away from the more traditional flat model and places an emphasis on giving our team balance and really clear career pathways in whichever area their passion lies.

“The introduction of our four Nurse Managers will allow them to spend 60 to 80 per cent of their time on the clinical floor in the hospital, making them visible and available to support, and work alongside our nursing community.

“Each Nurse Manager will have a number of team leaders working with them, who will support other RVNs, SVNs and nursing assistants.
“These additional roles provide more opportunities for career progression and allows our nurses to identify avenues which might be of personal interest. Those avenues can be quite diverse, for example, recruitment, rota management, clinical standards, mental health and wellbeing, or training and development.

“Nurses who have leadership ambitions but may not necessarily want to manage people on a day-to-day basis can still utilise their skills to support colleagues and the business by becoming clinical coaches and by sharing their experience and knowledge within certain disciplines and fields.

“We have put a huge amount of thought into how this model can improve career pathways for nursing assistants, student nurses and RVNs across the business.

“Nurses play a huge, pivotal role in providing the very highest quality of care and service to our patients and clients, and this move shows how much value we place on that here at NDSR.”

Gerry Polton, clinical director at NDSR, said this new structure would elevate the role of nursing and shine a light on its importance across the business.

He said: “We believe this new structure really is iconoclastic, hopefully defining a new ‘gold standard’ in veterinary nursing. What we’re doing is allowing individuals to create their own career pathways within the business. We’re giving them valuable support and allowing them to forge ahead in leadership roles, should they wish.

“The role of vet nurses is hugely important and this structure not only recognises this but puts our fantastic team front and centre in almost everything we do here at NDSR.

“We’re confident this will benefit patients, clients, referring vets and, of course, the entire nursing team, which will offer us added support, while also receiving added support and structure to build on the fantastic skillsets we have here.”

NDSR is one of the first Linnaeus practices to introduce the group’s structure for its nursing team and follows a clear emphasis being placed on the nursing community by Linnaeus, which, in Chief Nursing Officer, Dr Andrea Jeffery, has had a nursing presence on its Executive Board since 2019.

Dr Jeffery, who has recently completed a PhD investigating the factors that influence retention within the vet nursing profession, has spearheaded the creation of a unique central support veterinary nursing team (CSVNT) at Linnaeus to help its nursing population develop a clear career framework to facilitate skill set development of RVNs throughout their careers.

Dr Jeffery said: “We’re really excited to see the implementation of this nursing structure at NDSR, which, as part of Linnaeus, is very much leading the industry with this approach to supporting its nursing team.

“We place a real emphasis on the importance our nurses play in helping us provide a better world for pets and this move really highlights the opportunities, support and work-life balance on offer at NDSR.”

NDSR offers specialist-led services in anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, soft tissue surgery and spinal surgery.

For more information about NDSR’s new nursing structure, visit https://www.ndsr.co.uk/home or follow North Downs Specialist Referrals on Facebook.

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