A GROUP of students from a Scottish university embarked on a 10-day trip to India to help teach locals basic skills in animal care.
Eight students and four members of staff from Edinburgh Napier University worked with colleagues in two veterinary hospitals in the Kerala area of the country for two weeks in November.
The team of students, vets and animal welfare scientists shared their knowledge and demonstrated clinical techniques and interventions that can improve an animals’ quality of life.
There is currently no official recognised veterinary nurse training scheme or qualification in India despite its growing pet population, meaning that the experiences of animals in the clinic can often be negative.
Students and staff educated their Kerala colleagues on hygiene and infection control and recognising and managing pain in animals, which can significantly improve the care they receive.
The workshops highlighted the importance of providing consistent and compassionate nursing care which can help to reduce healing time.
The Indian students and faculty were shown how to recognise pain, score it and understand how to treat it.
Hayley Walters, Welfare Veterinary Nurse at the University of Edinburgh’s Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, explained: “An animal’s experience can be improved dramatically when nursing care is provided by a knowledgeable, well trained and compassionate individual. Veterinary nurses are in the perfect position to do this.”
Edinburgh students continued their learning on the trip by tackling problems they may not have encountered elsewhere including differing cultural attitudes and the serious threat of rabies.
Student vet nurse Kirsty Dougherty said: “I was talking to a young shopkeeper who had just shooed away a stray dog and he told me “It’s not that I don’t like dogs, it’s just that I’m scared of needles.
“This really highlighted to me the difficulties faced by normal people living with the very real risk of rabies.”
Team members were challenged to work around ethical and cultural resistance to amputation and euthanasia, a problem which veterinary clinicians face daily.
Dr David Smith, Veterinary Nursing Programme Leader, said: “Euthanasia of all animals is forbidden (in all but the most extreme circumstances) in this area of India, so our students were presented with cases that would never have been treated in the UK.”
Subsequent the project, the Keralans are interested in starting up a veterinary nursing programme with the ongoing support of Scottish universities and colleges.
If the programme comes to fruition, it could create more than one hundred thousand opportunities in the country.
Kirsty added: “We scrubbed, sweated and problem solved our way through the week and were rewarded by seeing a big improvement in the demeanor and comfort of the animals there.”