Mairead Mulvenna from Balmoral Veterinary Centre has won the Northern Ireland Student Veterinary Nurse of the Year Award.
The 25-year-old West Belfast woman picked up the prestigious prize at a Gala Banquet run by the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) and British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) at the Europa Hotel.
Mairead, who has worked at the Balmoral practice for eight years, was overjoyed at receiving the award. She was nominated by Balmoral senior vet and owner, Dan Flynn.
She said: “When they called my name I couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely delighted. It made me feel really good about myself. I would like to thank Dan for nominating me and the rest of the team for supporting me.”
Mairead, along with fellow Balmoral trainee, Megan Devlin, is about to complete the first year of a two year course to become a fully qualified veterinary nurse. Last year she completed the animal nursing assistant course.
The training involves two days a week theoretical study at Greenmount College and three days a week practical training. Balmoral Veterinary Centre is a recognised training centre and she is given on-the-job training by her clinical coach, head nurse Deborah Armstrong.
Mr Flynn, who also owns Commons Brae Veterinary Centre, congratulated her for receiving the award:
“When I took over the practice two and a half years ago, I decided to enrol Mairead on the training scheme. She has really taken to it and loves the challenge. With her previous experience and now her official training she is a real asset to the practice,” he said.
The award-winning trainee began working part time at the practice as a 17-year-old schoolgirl and was offered a full time post once she completed her A Levels.
She said: “I have always loved working with animals. The previous owner, Mr Kieran McAlister would have shown us basic nursing and when Dan took over, he offered me the chance for training and I jumped at it.
“Megan and I are getting fully trained by our head nurse Deborah Armstrong and Dan. Hopefully next year we will have passed and be fully qualified nurses,” she added.
She is a real animal lover and five years ago brought home a four week old kitten that had been rescued and treated at the centre.
“She’s called Milo. She is very dominant and rules the roost at home, so we can’t have any other pets at the moment. When I was growing up we had dogs in the family. We had our first dog ‘Tiny’, a cross terrier for 15 years. My parents now have a Labrador called ‘Sar’.”
It is clear that she loves working in the practice: “Every day is different. I love having a chat with the clients and spending time with the animals. It is a satisfying feeling to help get them through an illness. You feel you have done something really good.
“Sometimes you have to deal with sad news and it isn’t easy. You have to chat with the clients and help them through difficult decisions. It does affect you but you have to pick yourself up and think about the rest of the animals.
“You have to be a caring person and have a love of animals. But you must also have good people skills because the clients are putting their trust in you. Their animals are members of their family and you have to be confident in what you are doing.
“This is my second home. I have made many close friends over the years and built up a good rapport with the clients. I just enjoy coming in every day and doing this job,” she added.