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What is a Veterinary Nurse? What do they do? And how can I become one?

Milton Keynes Veterinary Group
The Veterinary Practice is a fast-paced environment with an immense caseload of animals flooding through the doors every day. From new puppy and kitten checks to dealing with road traffic accidents and other emergency cases, what walks through the door next is mostly a mystery- and this is arguably one of the best parts of the job.

The title ‘Veterinary Nurse’ was first used in 1984 and initially it was unclear as to what this role really entailed. In 2012, Veterinary Nursing was officially recognised as a professional qualification and nurses would be enrolled on to a register and considered ‘A Registered Veterinary Nurse’. But what does that mean?

There is a common misconception that veterinary nurses spend their days cuddling cute kittens and puppies and whilst this is an extremely rewarding aspect of the role, there is much more to this job than meets the eye. Veterinary Nursing is not a ‘stepping-stone’ to becoming a vet, it is a separate professional career in its own right which requires a completely different skill set. Veterinary Nurses are governed by a piece of legislation called ‘Schedule 3’ which outlines what they can and can’t do within the remits of their role. There are many procedures that can be done by a Veterinary Nurse and such tasks include admitting patients to the hospital, blood and urine sample collection, monitoring of anaesthesia, recovery of patients and monitoring and treatment of sick animals under the direction of a Veterinary Surgeon. Under schedule 3 there are also some minor surgical procedures such as stitching small skin wounds and cleaning animal’s teeth- Cool right? Our nurses are also available for clinics at most of our branches including Stony Stratford, Willen, Stoke Road and our main hospital at Walnut Tree. The clinics range from puppy and kitten checks, nail clips and second vaccinations to weight and geriatric clinics.

In order to excel in the role of a veterinary nurse, the ability to be forward-thinking, show initiative and possess good organisational and communication skills are essential. Whilst there are a multitude of heart-warming and rewarding situations that occur regularly in practice; Veterinary nurses must be able to show empathy to owners when the time comes to put their animal to sleep. This is, and always will be one of the hardest parts of the job however, Nurses are there to provide advice and support to owners in order to give their pet the most dignified and peaceful end of life care.

So, how do you become a Veterinary Nurse? There are two main routes which an aspiring nurse can take. The first is applying to University. There are options to continue on to higher education and complete either a Foundation (FdSc) degree or Bachelor (BSc) degree. The course length often varies from two to four years and balances both lectures and blocks of placement in practice. Whilst the degree option may be favourable for those wanting ‘the university experience’, nurses are often not paid for their placements and have the additional costs of paying university fees. However, obtaining a degree in Veterinary Nursing may be beneficial if you would like to progress to a career in teaching or lecturing.

The alternative option is completing a Diploma in Veterinary nursing. This is mostly done by completing one or two days of educational lectures at College and the other days are spent learning on the job in practice. This option is usually a paid role within an RCVS accredited (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) practice and the course can be completed in two years. When training via both routes, lots of time is spent in practice and nurses are exposed to many experiences in which they can further their knowledge and develop their skills. It is also a possibility to complete the Diploma route and ‘top-up’ to a degree at a later point.

Once qualified, Veterinary Nurses have a wide range of career development options available to them which allow specialisation in an area of interest to them. This may be in feline behaviour and medicine, emergency and critical care or exotic, wildlife or zoo nursing. In addition, opportunities to go abroad, in to industry, teaching or research are also available. The possibilities are endless! It is recommended that work experience placements are completed before considering application for this role as it definitely isn’t for everyone. Emailing practices in the local area and asking for work experience is a good way to start however, it is recommended that they are an ‘RCVS accredited training practice’.

Qualified Nurses can expect to earn from £19-£30,000 a year with options for progression in to more senior roles such as Head Nurse or practice management. However, a great philosopher once said ‘If you love your job, you will never have to work a day in your life’- Confucius. If you think yourself or someone you know might be interested in training to be a veterinary nurse you can contact the practice and arrange a chat with one of the nurses or email Michelle who deals with our work experience in practice. Veterinary Nursing is a challenging yet exceptionally rewarding job and if you could see yourself in this role, we would love to hear from you!

For more information please visit the websites below: https://www.rcvs.org.uk/lifelong-learning/students/veterinary-nursing-students/ https://www.bvna.org.uk/a-career-in-veterinary-nursing/a-career-in-veterinary-nursing

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