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Our Team

0800 VET NURSE

Rachel Smith

Tutor (Albany / Botany)

Although a kiwi, Rachel qualified as a veterinary nurse in Australia in 2003, and worked in both small animal and after hour emergency vet clinics. Rachel moved back to New Zealand in 2008 and took a break from nursing to raise her two young children. In 2011 Rachel returned to veterinary nursing and was soon given an exciting opportunity to be a casual vet nurse at Auckland Zoo. This position quickly turned into a permanent role much to Rachel's delight. For seven years, Rachel worked at Auckland Zoo, nursing a large variety of exotic and native species in the field, as well as in the vet hospital, otherwise known as the New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine.

Rachel joined the Vet Nurse Plus team as a Tutor in March 2018 and works across both education centres.

Rachel has two children as does her partner. Their family also includes a 12 year old cat, five year old dog (both named Sasha, a long story!), and four female Saanen goats that were hand reared from five days old – Bubbles, Lulu, Jasmine and Coco.

Jenny Nixey

Programme Operations Manager (Albany / Botany)

Jenny gained her veterinary nursing qualification in 2000 in Australia, then spent a number of years working in a small animal practice as Head Nurse. In 2005 Jenny moved her family to New Zealand to work in a veterinary teaching hospital as the supervisor for the large animal department. Later Jenny moved to the surgical department as a surgical nurse and supervisor, whilst also completing her Diploma in Science & Technology. Jenny was also part of the Veterinary Emergency Response Team, and trained in small animal and large animal rescue. Jenny is very passionate about teaching in all areas of veterinary nursing.

In Jenny’s spare time she trains in karate and takes teams to Japan for competition and gradings – her two teenagers are also karate mad! Jenny joined Vet Nurse Plus in early 2016 as a Tutor and Clinic Coordinator and was promoted to Programme Operations Manager in January 2018.

Lisa Bickner

Tutor and Clinic Coordinator (Albany)

Lisa graduated with a Diploma in Veterinary Nursing at the end of 2009 from Massey University, and also holds a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. Following a year as a vet nurse in a small animal veterinary hospital, Lisa returned to Massey University to work as a vet tech in the equine and farm services clinic of the vet school. During that time, Lisa nursed a wide range of large animals with favourites being dairy cows, horses, deer and alpaca. Lisa developed a love for teaching in her very first year out of university and has been able to build on and develop this skill further working with student vet techs and veterinarians for the last 7 years. Lisa joined Vet Nurse Plus in February 2018.

In her spare time Lisa loves spending time with her horse, especially her little old pony mare Cola, who still thinks she can jump Grand Prix despite her arthritis. Lisa also enjoys taking her German Shepherd out walking, hanging out with friends, reading books and spoiling her cat.

Sam Spray

Tutor (Albany)

Sam qualified as a veterinary nurse in 2001 from Hartpury College in Glos, UK and spent many years locuming in various vet clinics in the UK and Australia. Her passions are medical nursing and behaviour in cats and dogs.

Sam moved to New Zealand in 2012 with her husband and lovable black Labrador Rodney. After the birth of her two children Sam worked at Pet First Aid as a Canine Body Language Instructor. Rodney was her travelling work partner and they visited multiple kindergartens and schools teaching children about dog safety. Sam joined Vet Nurse Plus in 2017.

Sam loves to travel and spent a memorable year traveling around Asia, with Tibet and Nepal the highlights. Her wanderlust is restricted now but she feels lucky to live in such a scenic country and enjoys escaping to Muriwai or the Waitakeres for walks with Rodney.


Stacey Middleditch

Tutor (Botany )

Stacey qualified as a veterinary nurse in 2003 after spending her early years in the RNZAF as a chef and then on her OE. In 2006 she graduated with a BSc in Zoology from Otago and in 2007 completed a Post Graduate Diploma with Distinction in Wildlife Management, both gained whilst working as a veterinary nurse and tutoring first and second year university labs. Stacey worked with DoC in the captive management programme for the Kakī in Twizel, hatching, caring for and releasing the critically endangered bird into the wild. Stacey also worked with the Otago Regional Council to assess the impact of activities on the natural environment as a resource consents officer. After moving overseas for a few years and raising her two children, she returned to her first love of veterinary nursing in early 2017 in an Auckland vet clinic before joining the Vet Nurse Plus team in 2018.

Stacey lives in a beautiful natural bush setting in the Waitakere’s in a treehouse-like home with her family, and cats, Narla the ginger ninja girl and Finnegan the black maine coon. Along with whatever foster or injured animal she is currently rehabilitating. In her spare time she likes to travel, relax with friends and enjoy the wonderful New Zealand outdoors.

Lara Reid

Tutor (Albany)

Lara graduated with her Diploma in Veterinary Nursing in 2005. She went on to work at a teaching veterinary hospital in Auckland helping students gain practical experience within the clinic. After two years she ventured overseas to work on superyachts and travel around the world. In 2010 Lara returned to her senior veterinary nurse and student liaison position, before heading off on maternity leave.

Lara first joined Vet Nurse Plus as a Tutor and Clinic Coordinator in 2014. Lara now teaches with us part-time and lives in Dairy flat with her husband, two sons, and a menagerie of animals on 4.5 acres.

Linda Heavey

Quality and Development Manager (Albany)

Linda has extensive experience in the education sector spanning over 15 years. Starting out as a tutor, Linda quickly moved into programme manager roles and then on to hold senior management positions at two Auckland tertiary institutes. In 2013, Linda set up her own educational consultancy business specialising in programme development and compliance – two areas she has built up considerable expertise in over her years in the industry.

Linda first joined Vet Nurse Plus in 2015 to project manage development and delivery of the new Certificate and Diploma qualifications. In early 2016, Linda was appointed as Programme & Development Manager, and most recently moved into the new role of Quality and Development Manager in January 2018.

An avid animal lover, Linda has two dogs, including a very sweet Chihuahua called Coco Lulubelle Chanel Heavey!

Sylvia Bell

Tutor and Clinic Coodinator (Botany)

Sylvia graduated as a veterinarian in 1993 from Massey University. After 4 years in mixed practise she moved overseas and worked in companion animal practice in London. Upon returning to NZ in 2001 she settled into companion animal practise in Auckland and has been here ever since.

In 2005 Sylvia passed Membership exams in Small Animal Medicine. She also has a particular interest in Dermatology.

And an acquired interest in behaviour after the addition of a severely anxious dog to the family

Strong advocate for low stress handling techniques and philosophy in clinic

Sylvia spends her spare time walking her never tiring Border collie cross, Noodles, running around after two geriatric cats Carol and Dougal. Hanging out with friends, playing board games (her partners hobby) gardening and camping/tramping.