One of north Cumbria’s most experienced veterinary nurses is celebrating 25 years in the job.
Karen Macdonald, head veterinary nurse at Paragon Veterinary Group, joined when she was 17 and the practice operated out of a portable building.
Today, she heads up a team of seven veterinary nurses, supporting seven small animal vets.
Paragon now has three centres, including a new small animal wing at its Dalston centre which Karen helped to design.
Staff, former colleagues, clients and friends gathered last week to make a surprise presentation to Karen including a photobook telling the story of her career.
“It was just lovely,” said Karen. “I was overwhelmed that people care. You just do your job and then you see everyone together and you realise it’s more of a family.”
Karen had always wanted to work with animals and began with two weeks work experience at Paragon, then called Caldew Veterinary Group, when she was 15 and a pupil at Caldew School in Dalston.
“I’m so proud of where Paragon has got to. Things have moved on massively. We literally started in a portable building with one consulting room,” she says.
In 2019 the practice opened its new small animal area which includes two new theatres kitted out for advanced surgery, a laboratory, diagnostic imaging suite, isolation facility, kennels for surgical and medical inpatients and a separate cattery.
“The new facility was something that I really wanted, and we have achieved it, and I’m proud to say I had a big part in it,” said Karen.
She has overseen the training of many veterinary nurses and says one of her favourite parts of the job is getting to know clients over many years.
“I also love being in theatre, monitoring anaesthetics and looking after patients. And X-raying is something I love,” Karen added.
Challenges in her career were foot and mouth disease in 2001 and COVID-19.
“In foot and mouth, it was hard seeing people’s businesses and livelihoods crash down around them, that will never leave me,” she said.
“COVID has also been a big challenge with staff furloughed, and then getting lots of new clients but not being able to interact properly because of masks and restrictions.”
Karen also achieved some personal goals in the past 25 years, travelling on her own in India where she saw tigers in the wild.
Looking back, she added: “Never in a million years would I have thought I would have done all this. I was not a confident person at all when I started.
“I love the job more now than ever. It is nice that my opinion is valued by directors and partners.
“I am part of a big team, and it doesn’t matter what you are within the business, everyone works for the same thing – to give the best care to clients’ pets.”
Karen, 43, lives in Morton with her husband Gary, son Elliot, six, and stepson Ewan, 11.