A joined-up approach to dermatology

What were the takeaway messages from the Veterinary Nursing Dermatology Group’s first meeting?

17 September 2019, at 9:00am

As a veterinary nurse passionate about all things to do with nurse consultations, I am currently trying to set up more clinics in my practice by writing protocols and speaking to the vet team about what they would like nurses to be able to help them with. Dermatology is also a subject I love learning about, so when I stumbled upon the Veterinary Nursing Dermatology Group (VNDG), I joined straight away. As a member of this group, I have been learning how we as veterinary nurses can assist the vets in the work-up and treatment of cases in clinic and how to support clients in the management of skin conditions at home.

When I saw the post on the group’s Facebook page about their first seminar being held prior to the BSAVA Congress, I knew I had to attend. My head nurse allowed me to leave work early so I could make my way to Birmingham for what I was hoping to be a packed full day of amazing topics and to learn more about what I can do in practice, and it didn’t disappoint.

Dermatology nursing in general practice

John Redbond discussed what you need to be prepared for to perform a nurse-led skin clinic, what equipment is required, how to perform a skin work-up and how to report the results to the veterinary surgeon. As nurses, we can do much of this work for the vet and gain that vital owner compliance. We all know skin is hard to manage and without owner compliance it can be frustrating for them and the vet, so by being more hands-on, gaining that all-important history and performing the skin work-up, we can help the vet to make a diagnosis and provide the right treatment.

Bosses! What is it they don't get?

I was really looking forward to this talk because this, as I am sure it is for most nurses, is one of my biggest challenges in practice, and hearing this from a vet’s point of view was really useful. Nick Tremlett started his talk by asking the nurses a series of questions. For example, “Raise your hands if your vet allows you to perform blood tests and place IV cannulas.” We all raised our hands – good start. He then went on, “Raise your hands if you perform post-operative checks, admits and discharges.” Again, we raised our hands. It went on like this until he finally said, “Raise your hands if you’re allowed to perform skin work-ups.” Very few of us raised our hands; he said he cannot understand why we can do something more technical, like take a blood sample, and yet are not asked to perform a skin work-up, which is far easier. Food for thought, and something I think we all need to change in practice.

How to manage adverse food reactions in cats and dogs

This topic was presented by Clare Jones from Avacta, who covered allergy testing and food trials. Food trials are another thing nurses can discuss with owners, and yet many of us don’t. Vets are given only a 10- or 15-minute appointment with the pet owner and this is just not enough time to discuss a food trial with them. The vet should straight away get a vet nurse to go through this with the owner and ensure they receive the support they need and the right information and, again, get that all-important compliance from the owners, without which it just will not work.

A day in the life of a dermatology nurse

I had to laugh because the first thing Nicola Swales said when being asked to do a lecture on this subject was that she thought it would be boring. Absolutely not. It was so fascinating. What I found most interesting from Nicola was how knowledgeable she was – so much so that she trains vet students in how to perform the consultation and diagnostic testing. She can second guess what the vet will prescribe before they have even asked what they want. It just shows that having an experienced RVN by your side really can help.

The day was finished with a question and answer session. We had some amazing questions for the panel and it was great listening to how they all have different tips for us, so we can pick what works best for us. John concluded the day and presented us with an amazing dermatology tool box provided by Vetruus and full of everything we need for skin clinics – something I will be very protective of in practice.

Kim Rathbone, RVN, qualified in 2012 and has worked in both referral and first opinion practice. She has a keen interest in nurse consultations and setting up clinics that meet the needs of the practice. She also enjoys diagnostic imaging, laboratory work, infection control, in-patient care and ECC.

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