Vet Nurse Awareness Week: Meet Lucia
4-8 October is NZ Vet Nurse Awareness Week, and here at SPCA, we are lucky to have an amazing group of people who work as Vet Nurses to help save the lives of countless vulnerable animals. Lucia Wang is a Vet Nurse at SPCA Auckland (Māngere) and answers some questions about her role – the good bits, the challenges, and what inspires her to come to work every day.
How would you describe your job to a 5-year-old?
I try my best to brighten the days of all animals and people I meet at SPCA! The staff here all work as a team. We care for animals like cats, dogs, birds, and rabbits so they are healthy and feel comfortable. This can include giving medication, cleaning their cages, taking x-rays, polishing their teeth or performing surgeries. Our ultimate goal is to give them the best life possible, and to teach other people how to care for them too.
What made you want to work at SPCA?
SPCA puts animals’ welfare at the centre of everything. As most of the animals we see don’t have humans to care for them, the staff here become active advocates to give the voiceless a voice. Shelter medicine is very selfless and everyone here sees all animals as equals with us and no less. You know that people who work here are genuine animal lovers.
What does an average day look like for you?
In an attempt to avoid Auckland traffic, I always aim to arrive early. This way I also get time to cuddle the animals that have stayed overnight! Then it’s all go-time, whether it’s cleaning, setting up machines, processing animals, or preparing for surgeries. Despite the unpredictable nature and fast dynamic of the shelter environment, everyone in the hospital team works together like a well-oiled machine. Throughout the day, the nurses are anesthesiologists, phlebotomists, janitors, dental assistants, pharmacy techs, emergency responders, caregivers, and paperwork recorders, just to name a few. Things rarely stop going here and there are always tasks to do, so set breaks are highly valued. Even just the sheer volume of incoming animals never ceases to amaze me. Not one day is the same and that’s a part of the magic.
What is the biggest challenge in your work?
Understanding and accepting that there's a limit to your abilities. When nursing sick animals, you develop an emotional bond with them: celebrating when they improve, getting frustrated when treatments may not work as well or promptly as you would like. And sometimes, you have to let go for the sake of the animal. I have to remind myself that their quality of life is deteriorating and sadly, sometimes euthanasia is truly the best or only option to relieve their pain. SPCA has an incredibly rigorous, ethical, and respectable procedure when making these decisions, but it still requires a lot of mental and emotional strength. It never gets easier and it pushes me to be more resilient.
What is the best part of your job?
Working at the SPCA, I cannot boast about all the lovely volunteers and team members enough. Rain or shine, our volunteers work tirelessly at the village, at home as foster parents, at our op-shops, or even at donation stands across the country. They are always so selfless and joyful... I absolutely love saying hello to all of them, spending a few seconds to chat to them, and to thank them for everything they do. It warms my heart to know such precious and generous people exist! Needless to say, the staff are all so supportive too. I came here for the animals but I stay because of the people!
How did the recent Level 4 lockdown in Auckland affect your work?
This was my first time working with SPCA during a Covid-19 lockdown, so it’s been a lesson in adapting! Having significantly less people to carry out all the necessary daily tasks – as well as restricting communication to digital means or phone calls only – proved to be a little difficult sometimes. Despite that, everybody kept super positive while working together distantly. I’m glad that I can still physically come in and look after animals in need, as we are deemed an essential service under Level 4. Although I adore my “bubble” work mates, I did miss seeing all the other village staff and volunteers. I look forward to seeing their smiles again once we go down in Alert Levels in Auckland!