Volunteering with StreetVet

Volunteering with StreetVet is a great way to give something back to your community.  As vets and veterinary nurses, we are privileged to be able to make a difference in a way that not many others can.  But apart from the fulfilment of knowing you have helped others there are many other reasons to join the StreetVet community.  StreetVet is a fantastic way to meet other vets and vet nurses in the area from a broad professional spectrum: colleagues from other local practices, clinical specialists, scientists, teachers, those working in industry and government departments to name a few.  It is exciting to work in a different environment with such a skilled group of people, developing solutions to situations you may not have encountered before in your professional career.  On a more personal level many volunteers have seen improvements in their own communication skills.  Taking time to speak to owners that are experiencing difficulties can have a huge impact on that person’s well being.  Many owners have little routine or structure in their lives but they really look forward to their weekly meetings with the StreetVet team.

Noelia Lopez-Salensky a veterinary surgeon at the Royal Veterinary College took the leap to attend her first outreach session recently and agreed to answer a few questions.

How did you hear about StreetVet and what was your motivation for joining?

I heard about it though a colleague at work who introduced me to Gabriel Galea, an experienced StreetVet.  Signing up was very easy, I filled out an application form and I could quickly join the rota.

You’ve just completed your first outreach session in London, how did it go?

It was an amazing experience! I didn’t really know what I was expecting but it was more than a shift as a veterinary surgeon, it involved not only quick medical thinking but also great people skills and compassion.  I felt how StreetVets make such a huge difference to the quality of life of animals and owners.

Can you describe the location of your session and how it was run?

The session started in Camden where we picked up medicines and supplies from the StreetVet storage unit. We then took a bus to central London where we walked amongst tourists on busy streets searching for patients and their owners. We made a quick stop at a homeless hostel to check on a patient and then made our way to Liverpool Street by tube. We walked from Liverpool Street to Shoreditch touching base with the patients in the area and stopping at the soup kitchen in case someone was waiting for us there. We finished the shift walking back to Liverpool Street to make sure we don’t miss anyone.

What cases did you see?

We saw a Doberman with intermittent diarrhoea, we checked the urine of a patient that was too old to come to us (the owner brought the sample that we checked on the street using a refractometer and dip sticks), we examined the eyes of a dog with entropion and we checked on 2 staffies that were really happy to get new toys.

How was it interacting with clients and examining patients on the street?

Interacting with the clients was very moving and rewarding. They absolutely love their animals and they really enjoy talking about them. It was a great way to overcome social barriers giving them the chance to speak and getting the chance to hear their stories. They are extremely thankful to get veterinary care and for us vets it’s a great feeling to give something back. Working on the street is not easy as there are many things going on around you (people, other dogs) and working as a team is important to manage the situation. Whilst one of the vets examines the dog the other one looks after the equipment and chats to the owner.

Would you recommend others to try an outreach session with StreetVet?

Absolutely yes! Without a doubt it has been one of the most amazing experiences of my professional life.