An interview with Elle Payne: The Positive Vet Nurse – mental health is always a priority

14 October 2021 5 min read


Elle invites into her world and intentions of The Positive Vet Nurse. Episode 2 takes a deeper dive into mental health, the stigma, its conversations in the veterinary world and we even talk about equality amongst men and women. Elle reminds us it is closely interlinked with mental health because despite the industry being predominantly female, women still need a louder voice in terms of pay and men perhaps need more support when it comes to emotional and mental health since it’s assumed they’re less likely to talk about it. Additionally, she talks about finding her groove.

Join us in our conversation and be comforted with Elle’s soothing nature!


What was your inspiration in starting the Positive Vet Nurse?

quotation marks in green I started it because I wanted to find something that was relatable. At the time everything very low key, there was a lot of stigma around it. I wanted to shine a bit of positivity, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are positive sides to things if we allow it. It started with a few nice quotes but eventually I brought myself in. I started being transparent and people appreciate when you talk about you and your own personal stories. I saw a lot more engagement and that’s been the whole intention – was to help out. It’s been nice to share myself and help others in the process. quotation marks in green

Becoming locum was her key to freedom and flexibility

But not before having a mental breakdown first. Elle was in a tricky position and had moved jobs due to stress and burnout, but it didn’t solve the problem in the way she thought it would and didn’t work out as she had intended. She was ready to quit and even start looking for work outside her profession.

One door closed, another door open

Luckily for her, a good friend recommended locum as an option.

quotation marks in green I was trying so hard not to leave the profession and I’ve rediscovered my love, even though I was feeling really down with it. Now I’m a completely different person and I don’t have the stresses I used to. quotation marks in green

Though it works for Elle, she recognizes it’s not for everyone and it’s not about dissuading people from the profession and doesn’t want to give it a negative reputation.

Her advice to individuals thinking about pursuing the veterinary profession and new graduates is that research is key. You need to get as much experience as you can anyway as a vet nurse. Following pages and profiles helped her navigate the landscape too.

quotation marks in green When I first started, there wasn’t anyone you could look up, but now there’s so many pages, there’s people that love anesthesia, those that love consulting and the list goes on. Not just in the UK, but all over the world. Get inspired and make your own decision based on how motivated and how passionate you feel about those aspects. For example I love neurology and I did a bit of that in my referral practice at the time, the client and pet care aspect is also something I love. Talking to people and it’s nice when you see a client really appreciate what you’re telling them. It adds to that job satisfaction. quotation marks in green

When it comes to stress relievers, Elle stresses things like holidays, books, walking – all seems simple. That’s the point though, Elle reminds people that disassociation is key and being able to switch off is a healthy way to cope with stress and should be part of your daily life.

Equality and transparency in the veterinarian industry is key

Vets Panel, an online members-only community for vets and nurses, shares opinions and experiences on different issues. In an article, they cited:

quotation marks in green The fact that female veterinarians now outnumber male veterinarians at a rate of more than two to one is often lauded as a success for female inclusion in STEM.
Those who reject the idea of systemic gender inequality in STEM hold up the veterinary industry as an example to prove their point, often accompanied by comments such as:
the Twitter screenshot reads: 2+2 = 4 @melliflora 1 Dec 2019 If there REALLY was a ‘sexism problem in STEM’ as the #feminist smear merchants who wrong persecuted Dr. Tim Hunt alleged, veterinary medicine would not so far along the way to becoming female-dominated a profession as nursing currently is.
This view is problematic. Firstly, it assumes that a profession becomes “female dominated” as soon as women outnumber men by count. Secondly, it completely ignores the everyday experience of women in veterinary medicine. quotation marks in green

We ask Elle what her thoughts on this are recognising gender bias and misogynistic structures as we feel it’s important to highlight truths in aid of transparency and justice across industry.

quotation marks in green I do feel there are pay gaps and I feel like we need a band system like we do in the NHS based on qualifications. It’s based on your hard-work and we should earn more money and I feel, as a whole, things are not how they should be in that respect. quotation marks in green

In parallel though, Elle wonders if there’s a gap in that there aren’t many male vet nurses. And we don’t know why. Is it that the public perceives that men are the vets and women are the nurses? Because that isn’t true at all.

quotation marks in green I think it’s time for things to change, where we accept people can do anything they want to do regardless of their gender- but I do think that’ a big part of the perception. quotation marks in green

Or is it that mental has something to do with it?

quotation marks in green Statistically men do struggle more that women with mental health and I wonder if that prevents them from coming into the industry. It’s very difficult to tell, there’s a margin where we need to do a bit more research on it. quotation marks in green

As we crack conversations wide open, not talking about things is backed up by several studies. Vet Help Direct reference “a study that showed 75% of vet students wouldn’t want anyone to know they were suffering from mental illness and a study interviewing 21 UK vets who experienced suicidal thoughts had not talked to anyone about their problems because they felt ashamed.”

Luckily this paradigm is shifting, through several efforts across the world and in honest conversations like we’ve had with Elle in this podcast. For more advice, check out our first episode with Rory the Vet, where emphasizes the importance of registering your emotions and remembering who you are outside of your profession.

For resources mentioned in this podcast: