Veterinary nurse student swaps South Africa for the Scottish Borders

Colleen Gibson has worked with animals all her life and now she’s at Linnaeus-owned Greenside Veterinary Practice, which has surgeries in St Boswells and Jedburgh, the 51-year-old is able to take an important step on her career path.

Colleen, who previously worked at the same vet practice in South Africa for 24 years and has handled many exotic animals including in other roles, said: “I’m really looking forward to starting my veterinary nurse training, although I am a little bit nervous at the prospect of studying again.

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“I would never have had this opportunity if it hadn’t been for Greenside, where everyone is very supportive.”

Colleen, who was born in South Africa but has a British passport as her dad was born in Scotland, moved to the UK three years ago as study opportunities were more accessible.

If she stayed in South Africa, she would have needed to attend a full-time university course for two years in the hope of becoming a veterinary nurse, which wasn’t a realistic option with four children.

The working environment was also different, as animal care assistants don’t exist in South Africa and receptionists, such as Colleen, who would step in and help.

Spurred on, Colleen undertook a correspondence course with the College of Animal Welfare in the UK to gain the patient care assistant qualifications she needed before moving to the UK, where her brother and sister also live.

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Now in Scotland, she can combine her studying with her working experience and is starting the two-and-a-half-year veterinary nurse course in September.

While aiming to be a veterinary nurse is a new chapter in Colleen’s career, her passion for animal welfare has been with her from the start and while in South Africa she played an active role in animal vaccination and spay initiatives.

Colleen said: “In South Africa, I worked a lot with an animal welfare organisation called the Animal Anti Cruelty League, in fact I volunteered with them for 12 years and we would perform spays and vaccination drives. I loved doing that. That’s my passion, animal welfare work.”

Her time in the southern hemisphere also saw her working with some more colourful creatures, including zebras, dolphins and lions.

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Reflecting on her time so far at Greenside, Colleen added: “There’s a great team spirit at Greenside and I feel like I’m part of a big family. My line manager, Gillian, has been amazing and she supports me all the way.”

Outside of work, Colleen enjoys going for walks with her family and three dogs, a Great Dane and two crossbreeds, in the spectacular Scottish Borders countryside. To find out more about Greenside Veterinary Practice, visit www.greensidevetpractice.co.uk.

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