Craig Tessyman’s passion for working with exotic species has led him to become a role model for a new generation of vet nurses. As we celebrate Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month, he shares his story…
NO two days are the same for Craig Tessyman who cares for all creatures great and small – including those with a sting in their tail or a venomous bite.
Craig is an exotic veterinary nurse at Rutland House Veterinary Hospital and Referrals Centre’s Exotics Department in St Helens, Merseyside, where he treats all kinds of reptiles, fish, birds and mammals.
Drawing on his vast experience with exotic species, Craig’s cases on any given day could include x-raying a goldfish, treating a wounded bat, performing an MRI scan on a lemur or assessing a stowaway snake found in a suitcase.
Being a vet nurse is more than a job – it’s a passion, says Craig who tends to his own menagerie of ducks, cats, tarantulas, scorpions, tortoise, axolotls and red-eyed tree frogs from 5.30am each day before even starting work.
Craig joined Rutland House in 2016, having first ventured into the veterinary world by working as a weekend receptionist at a vet practice while studying for A levels.
The role evolved into a full-time position as a kennel assistant, followed by veterinary nursing training at college, a Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nursing of Zoo and Exotic Species and is studying for a Certificate in Emergency Critical Care.
Craig started his career in a small animal first opinion practice with an interest in exotic animals and has previous experience as a referral theatre nurse in a large multidisciplinary referral centre and working out of hours with emergency critical care.
He has had his dream job for almost a decade thanks to the growing popularity of exotic species as companions.
Craig, who is also a clinical coach to students in practice and provides in-house and external CPD on many exotic and wildlife cases, said: “I love the fact that I am dealing 100% with exotics and providing care and client education on a daily basis.
“I love that I get to make a difference, not just to the patients but also to the clients by looking after part of their family.
“People are becoming more aware of exotics from television shows, and they are seen as one of the more interesting species that can be kept. For many, having an exotic pet is about having something more unusual and about creating that microclimate for them. A lot of people take great pleasure in that.”
When asked to name the most unusual creature he has cared for, Craig is stumped.
He said: “When you see animals such as lemurs and venomous snakes enough, they become ‘normal’ to me. I have always had a passion for invertebrates, because not a lot is known about treating them. What I most like at the moment are axolotls which are like real-life Pokémon.”
During Craig’s 24 years in the profession, he has seen an increase in the number of male vet nurses who have joined – however, they are still in the minority.
Craig has become a role model for a new generation of vet nurses by actively promoting the profession, as well as exotic veterinary nursing. Away from Rutland House, he lectures at events such as the London Vet Show, BVNA and for the British Veterinary Zoological Society nursing community.
Craig has also been involved with Vet Team In A Box, a project involving a box containing a lesson and a virtual teacher, designed to encourage young people to think about a career in veterinary medicine.
He also sits on the British Veterinary Nursing Association Council as an officer, and on boards for the BVA, discussing non-traditional companion animals, as well as the ATBC canine and ABTC Equine sub-committees and working group.
His advice to anyone considering the career path?
“Going into practices and doing what you love is a great experience. It is not a job – it is a career and a passion, but it isn’t for everybody. For every extremely happy case that we see, there are sad times as well. That juxtaposition can take its toll.
“Every day is an opportunity to learn something new. A client may attend the practice with a species that we have not seen before and will bring with them some knowledge and experience that they can give to us and educate us on the husbandry or care of the patient. We are then able to treat these patients, using transferable skills and our veterinary knowledge to give the best outcome to the individual case.”
Article by Nadia Jefferson-Brown, VetPartners PR and Communications Manager (North)
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