There is an archaic saying that goes 'Behind every successful man, there is a woman'. It's one of those sayings that is a little sexist and outdated, but it is the truth in some situations. For me it is the absolute truth, but I would change the wording a little from 'woman' to 'women'. There have been many women in my life who have helped me along the way. First of all, there is my mother, who spent her whole life dedicated to my upbringing; then there is my fianc?e, who is my emotional pillar; but the women behind my success have to be my nurses. In different countries they are called various things. In the United States they are called vet technicians, and in Britain they are called veterinary nurses. In Hong Kong they are commonly called veterinary assistants. The role is not limited to women - there are also many men in the profession. There is a reason behind the various titles in different countries. In the US and Britain, the nurses have a degree, and fill very specific roles in veterinary clinics and hospitals. You could say that those with formal training have more background medical knowledge and may be able to adapt better to unforeseen situations. In Hong Kong and Australia things are different. There are no specific requirements to join the nursing staff of a veterinary clinic. You just have to pass a job interview, and training occurs on the job. Vet assistants in Hong Kong are often involved in administration and translation, and given their lack of formal training, their title has historically been veterinary assistant. I have trained more than 30 nurses in my career, and my current crop have been personally trained by myself over five years. They are as capable as those with formal training. During the current downturn in the economy, there has been more and more competition for jobs, especially unskilled jobs that have no particular prerequisites, so you can imagine that becoming a veterinary assistant is a particularly attractive goal. I have noted Hong Kong universities have been jumping on the bandwagon to consider offering courses for veterinary nurse training, with a syllabus very much like that followed in Britain. Even though I applaud any institution for offering training to increase education and knowledge, I am still very dubious because the cost of the proposed course doesn't correlate with the current industry wage levels and the number of jobs available. As an employer, I give pay rises to my nurses not based on level of education or age, but on how well they perform their duties. I have found no correlation between how effective a nurse is and his or her level of education. In fact, my practice manager is only 25 years old and has only been educated to Form Five level. She is the best veterinary assistant I have ever worked with. She's great with clients, a brilliant administrator and has good leadership qualities. She is definitely one of the most important women behind the scenes in my life. One of my friends left for Britain to bring up a family and started her own veterinary practice. During a trip back to Hong Kong we had brunch together, throughout which she complained about how much she missed her Hong Kong veterinary assistants. She thinks those she helped train came out with more flexibility to learn and were able to accomplish more tasks than her university-trained veterinary nurses. She felt the knowledge required to accomplish the job did not require formal training, and nurses or assistants benefited infinitely more from on-the-job experience. To be fair, she is a brilliant teacher and a walking encyclopaedia. Nurses that are trained by the vet they work with have the advantage of knowing the needs of the vet. Every vet has his or her own idiosyncrasies and there is always more than one way to do the same thing. What I look for in a veterinary assistant during a job interview is someone that is not shy and works well in a team. Also, previous sales experience is surprisingly important. We are not only dealing with animals; client communication skills are essential. Previous animal husbandry experience is helpful, so personal pet experience is good preparation, but the skills needed to be an assistant will be quite different. A love of pets is essential, a high level of empathy for animals really helps the nurse to, with a real passion, teach clients - and clients can tell the difference. I have had some applicants leave after their first day on the job because it wasn't what they expected, while others have stayed for more than five years. It is a good vocation for some. I have known one of my assistants for 10 years, and he has been an assistant for more than 14 years. His job has sustained him and a family of four comfortably for all of that time.