Carla Finzel’s mission for every pet to access a District Vet Nurse

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Carla Finzel is a district vet nurse who is pioneering a revolutionary service allowing pets to receive the medical care they need in their own homes.

It’s no longer just humans who can benefit from expert medical care at home when it’s needed.

Carla is my second guest in my new Change Maker series, which I’ve created to shine a light on people doing extraordinary things to help animals.

In this podcast, I talk to Carla about how it all started and the future of this innovative lifeline for pets and their owners.

You can listen in on the podcast player below or read on for the full story.   

Carla’s background as a vet nurse

Carla is a registered veterinary nurse. She qualified in 2001 in Spain before coming to the UK, where she began worked in general practice for the first five years.

She said: “I progressed on to emergency and critical care at a referral hospital in Brighton doing night shifts for nine years.

“Night shifts were 15 hours long, just the vet and me, and we were taking the phones for about 17 practices in the area! Great fun!”

When Carla worked in general practice and emergency care, she usually cared for cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, so typical family pets.

The challenges of traditional veterinary care

Carla says she was often frustrated at the complex procedures pet owners were expected to do.

She said: “We were asking them to do things like asking them to toilet their dog after an orthopaedic operation or to assess what level of pain they have.

“Some people are so frightened of giving injections of insulin, or they have physical disabilities. Holding a syringe is challenging, for example, if they have arthritic hands.”

There is a lot of support for humans even before we return home with an illness or condition that needs extra care.

You may have an occupational therapist come in or a carer who visits multiple times a day.

But for animals, they’re just sent home. The owners are left to get on with it alone.

With her campaign, Carla has developed the missing piece in the jigsaw, bridging that gap in care for our animals.

The District Veterinary Nurse role that Carla founded

Carla explains: “A district veterinary nurse makes nursing care accessible to pet owners and their beloved animal companions.

“The patient’s welfare is optimised, and human-animal bonds are protected with this role. It’s massive, it’s absolutely lifesaving, in many cases.”

It’s life-changing for the animals, giving them the support and care they need.

But it’s also phenomenal for the humans, particularly elderly or vulnerable owners who would really struggle to deliver the care their pet needs without assistance.

For some of these people, their pet is their only companion.

The life changing impact of access to a District Veterinary Nurse for owners and their pets

Describing the impact of veterinary nursing, Carla says: “Imagine how painful it is and how bad you feel if your animal has to be put to sleep just because you can’t give him that one tablet today or that injection.

“What are we doing? It’s like the veterinary industries lead from behind. Are we here for animal welfare? Are we here to protect human-animal bonds?

“If the vet sending me there every day, keeps that animal happy, living well with that condition because it is managed properly, that is wonderful.”

Carla’s lightbulb moment when she realised she needed to make change

Carla realised that this gap in care needed to be filled and says her idea took shape while working a night shift.

She recalled: “Back when I was doing the night shifts, we would have sometimes 22 inpatients to nurse overnight.

“They’re there one night, a second, maybe a third night. I looked on, thinking if this were my cat or my dog, because I have these skills it would be at home.

“It wouldn’t be here because he needs to have medication four times a day or twice a day, but the owner can’t manage it.

“The animal is getting more and more depressed. It’s stopped eating because he wants to be at home. His condition is actually getting worse rather than progressing.

“If you could have a nurse that goes in three times a day, that animal stays at home and frees up a bed that is needed.

“No veterinary surgeon or vet nurse is emotionally happy having an animal sitting there just to give it eyedrops four times in 24 hours.”

How Carla set herself up as a District Veterinary Nurse

Shortly after Carla took action.

She explained: “I spoke to the vets and said, ‘Right guys, you know what I’m capable of doing. If you have a challenging case, if you have the compassion to help a pet owner and a patient, I’m here, send me and let me do what you’re asking them to do.’

“And they said, ‘absolutely; we’re with you on this.’ And off I went.”

The animals who have benefitted from access to a District Veterinary Nurse

Carla has helped patients with diabetes, spinal trauma, cancer, eye and ear infections and has kept many animals and humans together.

She said: “ had a cat that was paralyzed from the third cervical vertebra down. Spirit was his name.

“It happened just before Christmas 2018; it was an incredible case. We gave that cat a chance, it took five months, and that cat was up a tree again!”

“I had a dog that didn’t have the strength in his body to get on his back legs for four months. And now he does.

“It’s so amazing what can be achieved. If the consultant feels that everything is going in the right direction, then this gives the animal and the owners the time they need.

“We suggest euthanasia too soon because we don’t have the support in the community to support the owners.

“I’m not about false hopes. I’m there to nurse the animal. If the vet sees that everything is going in the right direction, then why not? It has turned tides.”

Carla’s crusade to make the District Veterinary Nurse available nationwide

Carla has made the district veterinary nurse role work for her community in Brighton for five years.

Now she’s hoping to help other vet nurses by giving them the support, the equipment, and anything else that they might need to get started.

“I think everybody in the veterinary profession in the UK knows about it. It’s ignited a flame in vet nurses. We want to help animals, and we want to help people.

“I have hundreds of emails from nurses wanting to be district veterinary nurses, but there is nowhere they can go.

“We are at the stage where we’re building a database, and many nurses from many places want to do this in their communities.

“I’m listening, and I’m trying to put together a package of support for them.”

Crowdfunding for change

Carla’s campaign needs funding to progress.

She says: “I’ve kind of changed my little community with not a penny, but imagine if I had the money to go on and set it all up. It’d be amazing.

“I am asking for £10,000. I want to see a district veterinary nurse fully functioning per five-mile radius.

“Helping lots of vets, pet owners, caring for lots of animals, protecting human and animal bonds. It will be beautiful.”

Carla has got backing from insurance companies; they are open to paying for claims for district vet nurse services.

“If you can make an animal better quicker, it’s cheaper for the insurance company. What’s not to like?” she says.

“Keeping an animal diabetic for seven years of his life at £150 a month or nipping it in the bud within four months. It’s a no brainer, isn’t it?”

How you can support the District Veterinary Nurse campaign

Carla wants to roll this out to help more pets and owners.

She explains: “Our pets are dying every day, throughout the country in consulting rooms, because the owners cannot manage the treatment plans. Nobody says this, but it is the truth.

“We need district nurses out there, so no member of the public is left helpless after being given a treatment plan for their animal.”

The vets, pets, owners, and other vet nurses who know Carla’s work see the huge impact this initiative could have.

Carla has helped so many animals and their humans.

There are so many more nurses like her, who would love to be able to help pets with home care across the country, and so many pets who would benefit.

You can support Carla’s campaign by donating to her Just Giving page. https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/carla-finzel 

If you’re a vet nurse that would like to get in touch with Carla, you can reach her at vetdistrictnurse@gmail.com

You can learn more about Carla and her important work on her website: www.carlafinzelvetnurse.com 

And read about her on my pet blog: Why Carla wants every pet parent to have access to a district nurse 


Carla’s interview is part of my Changemaker series – read more here:

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