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National Cat Health Month

To celebrate National Cat Health Month throughout the duration of February, we caught up with Kim Skinner, Small Animal Oncology Nurse and Lead Nurse for the feline advocacy team at Pride Veterinary Referrals who provides us with an overview of her role, her interest in feline medicine and how she continues to champion felines.

Kim has been part of the Pride Veterinary Referrals team for over three years. She initially started as a Small Animal Rotating Nurse before settling into the well-established oncology department in January 2022. In addition to her role, in February 2022, Kim chose to join the feline advocacy team. She then went on to become the Lead Nurse for the feline advocacy team in October 2022. The role of the feline advocacy team is to help maintain Pride Veterinary Referrals’ gold cat friendly status by continuing to implement cat friendly care throughout the hospital and to always seek ways to continuously improve the care provided to feline patients.

Kim talks us through the vital role she plays within the wider Pride Veterinary Referrals team and explains more about her interest in feline medicine. 

‘As a Registered Veterinary Nurse, you are expected to undertake 15 hours of CPD annually to ensure your continuously enhancing your knowledge to be able to deliver the highest standard of patient care possible. Throughout my career at Pride Veterinary Referrals, I have had many opportunities to undertake additional learning to enhance my skills and knowledge further including a ISFM Certificate in Feline Nursing.

‘In spring of 2023, I will begin a ISFM Diploma in Feline Medicine. Additional learning is a great way to reaffirm your knowledge and allows you to gain the skills within your field to continually deliver best practice.

‘I have always been passionate about feline nursing since I was a student veterinary nurse. Cats are sensitive animals, with a wide range of emotions and the environment they’re in is so important to the success of the care provided. It’s therefore so important to create a safe and positive environment for them. It’s also vital to be able to read their body language, interpret their behaviour and have the patience to work at their pace.

‘Typically, we have been known to see 2-3 new cases a week and up to 30 patients a week for chemotherapy – These patients can be either internal or external referrals. As an oncology nurse, our days can vary depending on what day of the week it is. We use Mondays to see new referred patients and do potential imaging work ups for staging and then from Tuesday to Thursday we undertake our chemotherapy clinics. We get to check in on our patients and clients, find out how they’re doing, perform bloods to ensure their body is reacting well to the chemotherapy treatment and if happy and healthy, administer their chemotherapy.

‘The specialist-led oncology team has decades of combined experience at managing chemotherapy patients, and has excellent facilities for these patients, including a dedicated kennel room, a chemotherapy suite, a fume hood for preparing chemotherapy drugs, and dedicated oncology staff. Oncology is managed as a discipline, rather than being an extension of the internal medicine service, and the service is led by an experienced European and RCVS specialist in this field. Successful treatment of chemotherapy patients involves management of drug toxicity, patient wellbeing and client expectations, as well as treating the disease.

‘Each patient is different, and a lot of care is taken to listen to the client and involve them closely in all the decisions regarding their pet’s care. We perform diagnostic and staging procedures, such as CT, MRI or ultrasound scans, with ultrasound-guided biopsies and fine needle aspirate samples as required.

‘As we see our clients and patients so often, especially in the early stages, often seeing them weekly, we get to form such strong bonds with our patients. We pride ourselves on providing the highest standard of care to our patients. We work hard to create a relaxing, positive environment for our patients, always providing cuddles, lots of chicken and other suitable treats. It’s particularly rewarding when patients, both cat and dogs, that have known to be nervous or aggressive in the past, appear relaxed after just a few visits.

‘There seems to be a common misconception that animals that undergo chemotherapy tend to be ‘sick’ animals and don’t tolerate it very well. This is not the case at all, most of the time our patients are some of the happiest, most ‘clinically well’ patients we see. Quality of life is very important to us.’