VSA Career Stories - Vicky Hill, Head Nurse - Veterinary Specialists Aotearoa | Veterinary Specialist and Animal Referral Services in NZ with 3 specialist animal hospitals in Auckland and Christchurch


At VSA, we are extremely passionate about the care of our patients and their families, and just as passionate about looking after our team. 

Working at VSA means being a part of the VSA family, a supportive and encouraging environment where your career aspirations can be achieved. We pride ourselves on our high level of standards and care and it is through supportive training from our experienced team members that we are able to develop our people. At VSA, we believe that every member of our team, whether they are clinical, admin or support staff, can achieve their career goals with us.

For the right people, there is nothing that can’t be achieved working at VSA. Our staff dream big, and with the right amount of hard work and determination are able to achieve any goal they set themselves. 

Vicky - Veterinary Nurse at VSA - Veterinary Specialists Aotearoa

Vicky Hill - Head Surgery Nurse, Mt Albert

Vicky originally trained and qualified as a RVN (registered Veterinary Nurse) in the UK. After moving her nursing career to New Zealand where she initially worked in general practice, Vicky joined VSA in 2011 to cover a maternity leave role. 

She may have only signed up for 12 months but 11 years later Vicky is still with us, leading our Surgical Nursing team in our Mount Albert Hospital

We asked Vicky a few questions about her work at VSA:

Did you always want to work in the veterinary field? What other career ambitions did you have?

It was always veterinary work for me. The original ambition, like many nurses, was to be a vet but I realised the actual animal stuff is in nursing and so the target for me changed slightly. I decided that I wanted to be a vet nurse when I was in my early teens – when I was old enough to really understand what was going on with my own pets when they visited the vets.

Tell us a bit about how you qualified?

My family vet was really helpful and started me off in the right direction with regards to the higher education facilities that offered the relevant courses. It was then in conjuntion with another local GP vet practice that was an affiliated training centre that I was guided through the process. At that time, the UK training to be a vet nurse had to be done while also in full time veterinary employment, a bit like a scholarship or internship.

I trained and qualified through Hadlow College and the Warren House Veterinary Group (WHVG), both in Kent, England. I was fully employed by WHVG and attended college one day a week for lectures. Learning in this format is practical learning heavy and develops day to day skills. This really shaped me into the dynamic hands-on nurse that I became. 

What is it about the Veterinary Industry that you love?

The animals are an obvious focus here. More specifically though, making a real difference to a living soul. So many people say they couldn’t do what we do because they would hate to see animals die or in pain. The way I see it though, is that we have the privilege to sit with them in their time of need and be their voice. We can make that experience as peaceful, fear free, and comfortable as possible whether that be management of pain, completion of clinical procedures and treatments or even euthanasia.

How did you learn about VSA and what was it that attracted you to our hospital?

A nurse who I was working with in a GP clinic knew of an upcoming vacancy at VSA and put my name forward for the role. He had worked at VSA previously and so had a good relationship with the existing team. I’m so grateful to him to this day for the introduction to what has become my work family. 

How has your career evolved in your time at VSA?

I have been here for coming up 11 years now. I started in the  Mount Albert Surgical team as a relatively confident nurse but was in for quite the wake up call. The level of care and expertise here was a shock to the system and the reality of the learning curve I was about to embark on was intimidating at the time. I think my journey at VSA speaks for itself in showing the support, development and training we are given here.

I came on board as a maternity cover nurse and appear to have never left. I’ve remained in the Surgery Department working my way up from that maternity cover nurse to where I am now in the Head Nurse of Surgery position.

The support and encouragement given to me at VSA to find what it is that you enjoy and ways in which to grow is humbling. It’s never about what individuals can give to the business, it is how the business can help the individual find their own path. I’ve been to Australia to attend conferences and various CPD courses, the whole team is enrolled on personal development training programmes.  In my current role I have been given ongoing leadership training from external providers. 

What do you enjoy most about what you do? Describe a typical day

My current role is all about making sure the clinical and administrative teams are supported in the efficient running of the day and scheduling the evolving week ahead. There are many avenues of incoming requests and communications, both internal and external and I am the point of contact for overseeing how these each fit into the big picture of our day and week. 

I believe the secret to a happy, resilient and energised team is to give them someone to trust to ensure their day doesn’t get too wild. I’ve worked many years in clinical nursing roles where we skipped lunch, delayed our bathroom breaks to the point of being uncomfortable and worked overtime almost every night. From that, I have learnt that we can only deliver our best to our patients if we are ourselves looked after, rested and not constantly running on empty.

This is what I enjoy the most in my role, looking after my team, advocating for patient care standards and doing my best to ensure that we each have the mental, physical and emotional capacity to come back each day and give our absolute best to the next family and pet that needs us.

What do you enjoy most about working at VSA?

Without question, the family dynamic. We work in high stress situations with long hours and emotionally challenging cases. We experience the inevitable. We disagree at times, we argue, but we have a united set of core values based around patient care and a passion for our animals and their families. When we’re in an emergency surgical case late at night, skipping dinner plans with our own families, rescheduling out own lives, we know that we are there together for the united purpose of helping our patient achieve a positive outcome and go home to their family

What advice would you give to someone looking to be a vet nurse?

Do a sensible amount of industry research and don’t allow yourself to enter into this with complete naivety. If it still feels right after this then just do it!

I’m both an advocate and a realist for our industry. The reality is that it is difficult and it’s definitely not for everyone. However, if you put the work in at the start to find your way of coping, processing and replenishing yourself then the joy and light in this industry far outweighs the challenges. 

What would you say to encourage someone to think about career paths at VSA?

Come and meet us! We’re a weird bunch but sit tight and get beneath the waterline and you’ll meet people here that are lifers. I came to NZ with basically nothing and no-one and thanks to VSA I now have a career that I am so proud of, friends for life, a NZ family aaaaaaand three animals that have been surrendered to the hospital over the years and have come home with me.

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