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And the winner is...
  1. Nigel Taylor

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Nigel Taylor is a locum vet and consultant vet for the University of Exeter

Well, ‘gwapple me gwapenuts!’ It’s the late eighties. Lenny Henry’s on Tiswas and I’m up for a television award.

For some time, I’ve been the vet on BBC’s Saturday Superstore. Great fun, and now I find I’ve been nominated for the ‘most popular presenter on childrens’ TV’ award.

Nervously, I wait, as Kim Wilde, riding high in the charts back then, announces the results: ‘...and the winner is...David Bellamy!’

Britain’s most popular botanist crosses the line and beats me by a neck. That’s television for you!

Mind you, it’s always nice to be appreciated. A lot of young viewers had voted for me and I was having fun. After all, it’s not every vet who gets to hold regular in-studio consultations with Del Boy, Rodney and Trigger.

I think the BBC appreciated my popularity too. And it wasn’t long before they sent a film crew to my Plymouth practice to film everything we did for a week. You won’t have ever watched this as it was a pilot programme that never made it to broadcast, but you’ll have seen what it became – the world-famous reality TV format, Animal Hospital.

Everyone likes a bit of appreciation

Everyone likes a bit of appreciation. It doesn’t really matter if you’re the most senior clinician in a practice or the most junior trainee veterinary nurse or staff member. Veterinary medicine is a team effort where everyone, from those working on the front of house reception to the hot-shot, cutting-edge surgeon, contributes to the care of every animal that needs our help.

Veterinary nurses, in particular, develop a close relationship with hospitalised animals, as they treat and look after them. In a busy practice it’s easy to overlook just how much that relationship can make the difference between success or failure of a treatment.

I’ve worked with many teams of veterinary nurses. They’ve all been good, but the best ones have always had one thing in common – their work is not only appreciated by grateful owners, but also by the veterinary surgeons they work alongside.

I nominated a young veterinary nurse for a ‘Petplan nurse of the year’ award once. She was remarkable. As well as being great at performing her general duties, she’d also developed a particular interest in wild animals. From tiny birds to battered badgers, she would work tirelessly to help them. The whole veterinary team responded to her dedication and compassion. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better ‘culture of care’ in any practice I have worked in. So, no surprise then that she and all the other nurses were delighted with her nomination when an unexpected letter arrived from Petplan. Someone had noticed her efforts. She had been appreciated.

There was also the young boy who came to us for work experience. He couldn’t get a placement anywhere because his school wasn’t the best and, to be honest, he had no veterinary ambitions at all. I took a gamble and offered him a week with us. From the outset, it was obvious he was an excellent student. It wasn’t that he was particularly academic, but he just knew how to be helpful, just full of initiative. Consultation tables were cleaned, drug shelves tidied, owners and their pets greeted with a cheerful smile, nothing was too much trouble. At the end of the week I took him to our local McDonald’s – he’d never been to one before – and let him choose whatever he wanted. He was delighted. Both he and his teachers appreciated the treat. He’d worked to his best and someone had noticed.

I’m up for an award myself in the near future. It seems you must like the things I write because I’ve been shortlisted for the PPA’s (Professional Press Association) ‘columnist of the year’ award. In these perplexing pandemic times it will be a virtual affair rather than the usual do in a glitzy London hotel, but it’ll still be fun. I’m already practising my Oscar-winning smile. No David Bellamy this time around. I’m up against the rather more smooth-talking Monty Don.

So, fingers crossed. As I said, it’s nice to be appreciated!

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