Katarzyna’s story

by PDSA | 21 December 2023

In 2015, at 28 years old, Katarzyna volunteered as a Kennel Assistant at a PDSA Pet Hospital. Today, she is a qualified Veterinary Care Assistant (VCA), employed full-time by PDSA and working at the same Pet Hospital she volunteered at eight years ago.

We caught up with animal-lover Katarzyna to learn about her volunteering role and what she loves most about working in a PDSA Pet Hospital.

“I became interested in a veterinary career after moving to the UK in my mid-20s. I love animals, but – other than fostering a couple of dogs and owning pets myself – I didn't have any knowledge or experience in the field. I wanted to learn more, so I decided my first step would be volunteering. I knew it would be the best way to gain experience, learn more about working in a veterinary environment, and potentially get my 'foot in the door'.

In late 2015, at 28 years old, I became a Volunteer Kennel Assistant at Sunderland PDSA Pet Hospital. I’d seen the volunteer vacancy advertised and decided to go for it.

At the time, I was working full-time as a waitress. I had two days off a week – I volunteered at a community farm on one of those days and the other at PDSA. I didn't have a driver's license and lived 20 miles from the Pet Hospital. Nevertheless, I was always excited when Wednesday rolled around, meaning I could spend the day there supporting the team. My total commute was over two hours, but I didn't mind because I enjoyed every minute.

As a Volunteer Kennel Assistant, I would help clean and sterilise equipment for surgery, hold pets for procedures, and support the vet teams. Even though I wasn't there full-time, I was made to feel very welcome; I quickly became part of the team and attended social events with the staff. 

In 2016, an Apprentice Veterinary Care Assistant (AVCA) role became available less than 10 miles away at Gateshead PDSA Pet Hospital. When I found out, I knew it was the perfect next step. I was sad about leaving the team I’d grown close to at Sunderland, but I couldn't miss my chance. 

I was introduced to a different pace and workload at Gateshead PDSA; it’s a 24/7 Pet Hospital, so it’s very fast-paced. I stayed there whilst I completed my apprenticeship. I supported the Veterinary Nurses and Veterinary Surgeons and learned plenty along the way, including animal handling, working in a veterinary environment, and carrying out administrative duties. I never once regretted my decision to switch Pet Hospitals and complete my apprenticeship there.

In 2018, I was excited to return to Sunderland PDSA Pet Hospital as a qualified Veterinary Care Assistant (VCA), which remains my role today.

I’m very passionate about being a VCA. What I love most is that I see straightaway that what I do makes a difference. Pets, owners, and colleagues benefit almost immediately from my tasks – whether I'm trying to calm a stressed dog down before they go in for a procedure, stocking up the prep room, or staying with an owner while their beloved pet is being put to sleep. At home, I have two cats and a rescue dog. They all have unique personalities, and I’d be lost without them, so I understand how upsetting it must be for somebody to lose their pet. I love making a difference, even for just that one pet or pet owner.

It’s been almost eight years since I spent two years volunteering at PDSA, and I’m not sure I’d be where I am today if I hadn’t done it. Volunteering was a great way to get hands-on experience and learn more about the veterinary world. It gave me the confidence to go on and pursue a career in veterinary.

If you're considering volunteering at a PDSA Pet Hospital, take my advice and do it!”

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Share this article on:  PDSA | 21 December 2023


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