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A day in the life of Nancy McLaughlin, veterinary nurse at Bow PDSA Pet Hospital

Bow veterinary nurse Nancy McLaughlin gives us an insight into a day in her life; from setting up theatre, cooking for animals, and her favourite lunch spots on Roman Road.

Bow born and bred, Nancy McLaughlin, 22, works as a veterinary nurse at Bow PDSA Pet Hospital. McLaughlin was born in her family home on Norman Grove, where she lived with her parents and three sisters. She attended Malmesbury Primary School and then Swanlea School in Whitechapel.

McLaughlin trained at the Royal Veterinary College in London and joined the PDSA in June 2021, after having completed placements there as a student since 2017. 

The PDSA is a vet charity, providing free and low-cost care for pets in need. It was set up by Maria Dickin CBE, an animal welfare pioneer from Hackney, in 1917 in Whitechapel. The PDSA’s first hospital in Bow was set up in 1921. 

McLaughlin works in the charity’s purpose-built centre on Malmesbury Road. This site is just over one mile from the PDSA’s very first dispensary, believed to be at 7 Harford Street, Mile End.

I try to get up at… around 7am. I have a ginger foster cat called Pumpkin, who I foster from the cat rescue charity, London Inner City Kitties. I feed him, clean out his litter tray, and get him ready for the day. I make myself an Americano at home and take it to work in a to-go cup. I practice intermittent fasting so I often don’t have breakfast. I am usually at work by 8.30am. 

My typical day involves… getting our practice and patients ready for theatre. The first thing I do is open the windows to get the air running through the room. I then put the radio on. The choice of radio station is up to the person operating so we listen to everything, from classical music to Gaydio to R’n’B. I check in on our patients. To help de-stress the animals we have pet plug-ins that release artificial pheromones. I will also put on classical music and dim the lights; studies have shown that classical music helps lower heart rate and blood pressure in cats and dogs. 

The PDSA does a lot of dental procedures and I set up the dental room like a spa so I give the patients a nice little cushion to put under their chin. 

We will operate all day. For infection and control purposes, we operate from cleanest to dirtiest surgery so we may start with orthopedic surgeries and then work down to those where we have to cut into their stomachs or have mouth issues. 

The best thing about my job is… when you have an animal that’s been so poorly for so long and they have that first bite of a meal. It is so rewarding and it makes me think: ‘This is why I do my job.’ The PDSA doesn’t always have the most high-tech equipment so we have to adapt and find the best combination of all the different types of drugs and treatments to help animals feel comfortable. It’s really rewarding when you finally find the right balance of everything and see it is working because the patient wants to eat again.

The best thing about working in Bow is… seeing our regular clients. It feels like a community at the PDSA because we have a lot of patients who come in every few weeks or months so our receptionists know the clients really well and we start to recognise them. It is also nice being close to home. I can always run to my mum and dad’s if I haven’t got lunch. And it is great we are so close to Roman Road; if we have a really picky eater I can run down to Tescos and get some sardines. Everything’s at the touch of your fingertips here. 

My favourite places for lunch are… the Turkish stall on Roman Road where you get gözlemes. It is usually opposite Cafe Creme. Everyone at the PDSA loves that place and if you come back with one of their white paper bags, everyone is so jealous. Inci is our go-to for snacks. We do ‘hot-food Fridays’ where we treat ourselves to G.Kelly’s pie and mash and liquor and I absolutely drown mine in vinegar. That is a massive pick me up when you are at work. 

The most unexpected part of the job is… cooking for animals. Even this weekend, one of the vets said to me, ‘Are you a vet nurse or are you a chef?’ 

I try and leave work by… around 5pm but that is not always the case if we are running a bit behind time. If my colleagues and I have had a long week, we will head to People’s Park Tavern in Victoria Park. I also sometimes head to Rusty Bike Pub in Mile End.

My favourite places around Roman Road are…. Zealand Cafe with friends. Sometimes it’s nice grabbing a coffee there before going for a walk in a local park. But it is also a really nice spot for brunch or lunch. And a hangover is always cured at Fiesta Cafe. I’ve spent a few New Year’s Days there with my mum and sisters after having a massive party, we’ve gone to Fiesta and had a really big fry-up. There is also a tradition we have in our family where, every Christmas morning, in our pyjamas we go to Brick Lane and get a salt-beef bagel. By the time, we’re back, my grandparents are down from Cambridge and they eat theirs while we are all getting ready for the day.  

A fun fact about me is…  I know the locations where all the ‘E’ postcodes are associated with.

If you liked this article, read our piece on local woman Julia Empey who helps humans and animals.

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