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Physiotherapy complements my nursing


Rachael McCooey is a physiotherapist and a registered veterinary nurse with Severn Veterinary Centre.

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Horses were my first love and although I was happy working with them, grooming is notoriously poorly paid. Eventually, I had to move on.

Luckily, I found a position as a student nurse in a local equine clinic. It taught me basic nursing duties – sterilising, clinical cleaning, drawing up medications, theatre sterility, common drug names, basic phone answering, and so on.

Having decided the veterinary industry could offer me a good career, I secured a trainee position in small animal practice. It took six years to work my way up from student nurse to senior nurse.

I have learned so much, both during my training and afterwards, and enjoyed developing the client-focused side of my nursing skills, as well as making good friends.

Always wanting to learn more, I decided to study veterinary physiotherapy. My plan coincided with an opportunity to join Severn Veterinary Centre in Warwickshire.


  • Professional groom

  • Student nurse

  • Registered veterinary nurse (VN)

  • A1 assessor training

  • Training manager, Warwickshire College

  • Internal verifier for veterinary nursing

  • Senior VN, Companion Care, Stratford-upon-Avon

  • Senior VN, Severn Veterinary Centre

  • Nurses certificate in anaesthesia

  • Veterinary physiotherapy

  • Set up Cotswold Animal Therapy

The practice has a busy orthopaedic and physiotherapy referral service and it allowed me to complete the diploma in animal physiotherapy with the College of Animal Physiotherapy, alongside my role as senior nurse.

Completing the diploma while working (and helping my husband with his engineering business) was tough. As well as working 30 hours a week (including a weekend rota) and helping my husband, and studying – which meant devoting between 10 and 20 hours per week to learning – I used my days off, weekends and annual leave to attend practical training days.

But it was all worth it. I now offer a physiotherapy service within the practice and have also started a physiotherapy business at home.

The training taught me various ways of managing chronic conditions, acute injuries and rehabilitation.

During my training, I was also introduced to laser therapy.

I did a small-scale research project on the use of laser therapy in horses with kissing spine and found it helped to reduce discomfort and muscle spasms and improved their performance.

On the small animal side, I now use this therapy where appropriate, and the results are amazing. It’s particularly useful for postoperative rehabilitation, wound management (especially chronic wounds) and for helping to keep arthritic pets comfortable.

Cats that often won’t tolerate manual therapy such as massage, will generally tolerate the laser.

The versatility of this therapy makes it a useful tool in practice – it can be used on acupressure points and even for conditions such as otitis externa.

As well as being on the RCVS register of veterinary nurses, I’m also registered with the International Association of Animal Therapists. Both bodies have a CPD requirement and I enjoy learning. And as every therapist approaches cases in their own way, I try to absorb as much knowledge as possible from more experienced colleagues.

Long term, I’d like to do a veterinary physiotherapy degree. However, returning to university full time, with high tuition fees and a mortgage to pay, would be financially quite tough. It’s something to aim for in future.

Each case I see teaches me something new and the learning curve is ongoing and fascinating

I’m at the beginning of this journey and really enjoying it. Each case teaches me something new and the learning curve is ongoing and fascinating.

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