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“What a week!” - Life as a Centaur sponsored Vet Nurse at ITC Thailand

Wed 1st Nov 2017

Joanna Godfrey, a vet nurse from the UK, has just embarked on a trip to our Thai ITC, courtesy of a bursary from our amazing friends at Centaur. In her blog, she shares her impressions of the group’s first week of surgery in Chiang Mai!

My first day on the WVS ITC Thailand course started with beautiful sunshine and breakfast shared with five others who were all here to improve their surgical skills ready to go into first opinion practice.

We were greeted by Dr Giacomo Miglio a.k.a Dr G, who is the head vet here and the leader for our course. He gave two comprehensive lectures covering surgery, anaesthesia and analgesia. After an amazing lunch sat outside in the sun, we watched a demonstration of a spay and castrate and the vet students who were with me got an idea of what they were going to be asked to do the next day. We finished with a tour of the shelter which adjoins the centre and cares for around 30 dogs, mainly long term residents.

Early in the evening, we went back to our accommodation and six of us cycled to the local market to sample some of the delicious street food. We each tried four or five little tasters and I doubt any of us managed to spend over a pound. A great end to our first day!

Day two in Chiang Mai and we woke to heavy rains. The aroma from the wet foliage was a delight on the senses - totally different from the smell you get in the UK when it rains! Today was a big day as my fellow course attendees would get to perform their first ABC procedure. The support for the students here is amazing, with the guarantee of a fellow veterinary surgeon scrubbed in to help and a fantastic nursing team to support them. The resident veterinary surgeons all seem to ooze calm and compassion, so the students can relax (as much as possible) into their first experience of performing a spay or castrate solo. The students are responsible for their patient from pre-med to recovery, so get to follow their patient right through and I personally enjoyed the challenge of monitoring an anaesthetic without the home comforts of the small animal hospital theatre set up that I have in my day job!

During the two months prior to coming here, I tried to ensure I could bring some donations to the centre in support of their work. Both the clients from Westmoor Veterinary Hospital where I work in Devon and the veterinary supply company NVS were brilliant in their support and I had a weighty bag of bandaging and dressing materials, suture and swabs to hand over to the staff here. It was gratefully received and worth losing a lot of luggage space for!

After an afternoon lecture on wounds and their treatment from Dr G, our drive back to the house had an atmosphere of achievement and accomplishment as we left behind five comfortable patients: dogs who would no longer be able to increase the Chiang Mai street dog population. Each vet student was content with their day's work and new skills learnt, ready to do it all again tomorrow. Twice!

Day 3 and my fellow coursemates got their first chance to perform both types of neutering procedures consecutively. Their confidence was already boosted from the successes of the day before and the ward round of the inpatients only bolstered this, as all the patients they had operated on received good wound and pain scores and were set for release.

I assisted with the anaesthesia for two procedures and felt more confident with the propofol infusion method. I only once caught myself twisting round to adjust a non-existent isotech! After the procedure, each patient received a rabies vaccination and flea treatment during recovery. 

The students did well and everyone felt that their surgical technique had already improved over the day, especially with the suturing. The support staff continued to be amazing and continued to offer guidance even when the students’ abilities were improving.

On a trip out together the next day, we were so pleased to see evidence of the WVS neutering scheme amongst some temple dogs wandering along the streets looking healthy and happy. It reaffirmed in us just how far the impact of WVS was spreading and the difference their work was making. Thanks to Centaur, I am able to be part of that and it is a great feeling!

The next day, the students all had neutering procedures to perform on the waiting street dogs collected by the animal handlers the evening before. Most of the dogs are very difficult to handle so pre-op checks aren't easy due to the animals’ stress at having a human in such close proximity. The staff here have their timing down to a fine art, ensuring the dogs are monitored and checked for disease as well as prepared for surgery which includes removing any food sources that might cause vomiting and negatively impact on the necessary anaesthetic.

I returned to the clinic at the Care for Dogs Shelter to assist with the treatment of the dogs based there. I helped to take skin scrapes from three patients and then bathed them for Malassezia before each patient could dry in the sun! The clinic was quieter today but a wide and varied group of international volunteers were around, taking the dogs for walks, bathing them, grooming them and helping in any way they could to support the general wellbeing of the shelter dogs. The duty nurse at the shelter has a gentleness and compassion about her that has the patients following her around when they are waiting for their treatment.

Before we left for the weekend, we had a lecture from Dr Poppy on rabies. As this disease is not an issue in the UK, it was fascinating to hear the statistics behind it and see the results of the Mission Rabies campaign that WVS is supporting. All the dogs that are treated here are vaccinated for rabies before they leave and the impact on the disease is already clear by the results.

What a week! And the best bit is that we have another week to go!