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What Is A Vet Nurse?
Veterinary nurses are one of two key professional roles involved in the hands-on nursing care of a range of animals. They work alongside vets and promote the health and welfare of animals.
Veterinary nurses are essential in educating pet owners about managing their animals' health. Under veterinarian supervision, they perform technical work and possess the necessary skills to carry out a variety of diagnostic tests, medical treatments, and small surgical procedures.
What Does A Vet Nurse Do?
A day as a veterinary nurse is likely to be incredibly varied. There will, of course, be some day-to-day tasks, but on the whole, expect to do new things often… no two days are alike! Do expect to be on your feet for a large proportion of the day though. Variety is seen as an enjoyable aspect of being a veterinary nurse, so below are some of the things you may be doing regularly:
· Disinfecting kennels and sterilising surgical equipment
· Support owners in making decisions about their animal’s treatment and care
· Prepare animals for surgery
· Perform some minor surgery
· Monitoring anaesthetised animals (temperature, pulse, respiration etc.)
· Medicating sick animals
· X-raying animals
· Carrying out diagnostic tests
· Interacting with owners, often advising them how to best care for their pets
· Taking bookings, payments and completing necessary paperwork
· Running nurse clinics, such as diet, worming and grooming consultations
· Assisting in the operating theatre
· Applying bandages to wounds and fractures
· Supporting and managing teams
Different Types of Vet Nurse
There are lots of different routes you can go down as a veterinary nurse.
You may choose to stay in first opinion, general practice, where you are the first-line carer for animals. This would include neutering, worming, vaccinating and health checking.
There is also the opportunity to work in emergency practice. These typically operate overnight and at weekends and will mainly involve treating and caring for urgent and critical cases.
You may decide to specialise and work in a referral practice. These are specialist practices that treat more complicated cases. The type of practice can range widely, from dental to orthopedics.
Salary Of Vet Nurse
Starting salaries for recently graduated veterinary nurses can range from £18,000 to £24,000.
With more experience, salaries can jump to over £30,000 for experienced veterinary nurses.
Hours Of Vet Nurse
As a full-time veterinary nurse, you'll work an average of between 35 and 40 hours a week. You should keep in mind that you will likely have to work unsociable hours, including weekends, bank holidays and possibly overnight cover.
Many practices are open to part-time working as a veterinary nurse. Becoming a locum veterinary nurse is another way to have more control over your hours. You can read more about that here
Qualifications Of Vet Nurse
The governing body for the veterinary profession is The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). All courses to become a veterinary nurse need to be accredited by the RCVS.
There are two main courses you can do to become a veterinary nurse:
• Further Education – Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing / Advanced Apprenticeship
• Higher Education – BSc (Hons) Veterinary Nursing / FdSc Veterinary Nursing
The Level 3 Diploma will be completed in conjunction with working at a veterinary practice, where the BSc in Veterinary Nursing is a full-time, University course. There are pros and cons to both options and we recommend looking at our article How to become a veterinary nurse here for full details
Skills Of A Vet Nurse
The main quality you need as a veterinary nurse is a love for animals. You will also need to be hard-working, passionate about animals and dedicated to your work.
Some skills which you will need to become a veterinary nurse:
· The ability to work in a team. Whether it be with a veterinary surgeon, other nurses or administrative staff, teamwork is one of the most important parts of being a veterinary nurse.
· Strong communication skills. You will spend most of your day communicating with veterinary surgeons or pet owners.
· Using initiative. You may be solely responsible for a patient’s care, have to use your own initiative to provide the highest level of care possible.
· Attention to detail. Especially when administering medication and monitoring multiple patients.
· Deal well with stressful situations. Any role dealing with health and wellbeing, especially in a medical sense will lead to stressful situations. You will need to be calm under pressure.
· Be resilient. You will often have to help owners deal with incredibly hard decisions about their pet’s health and wellbeing, which can be upsetting for you. There are also occasions when a patient does not recover, or surgery does not go to plan.
Work Experience For Vet Nurses
Before applying to any accredited courses to become a veterinary nurse, there is a work experience requirement that needs to be met. This will be several weeks in a veterinary practice or rescue centre. Different courses have different requirements, so it is best to check the individual requirements of the course you are looking at first.
Veterinary careers are popular ones, and therefore securing work experience can be challenging. Competition is high, and there are a limited number of places up for grabs. Approach a few local practices and try to speak to a veterinary nurse or practice manager directly, rather than simply sending them a blanket email.
Continued Professional Development For Vet Nurses
CPD is an essential part of being a veterinary nurse. The RCVS requires you to complete 15 hours per calendar year to continue with your registration with them. This may include watching webinars, attending conferences, lectures and talks. It can also include being mentored, researching and critical reading.
Our sister company, The Webinar Vet, leads the way in online veterinary education and is a great resource for veterinary nurses looking to complete their CPD.
You can pursue additional certifications as a licenced and registered veterinary nurse, such as the Graduate Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Nursing or Postgraduate Certificate of Advanced Veterinary Nursing, both granted by the RCVS.
Career Progression For Vet Nurses
First opinion practice is where most veterinary nurses will remain, however, some may choose to specialise in emergency or referral care. It’s important to bear in mind that there is no requirement to remain clinical. Some other opportunities include:
• Practice manager
• Sales representative
• Rehabilitation (i.e. physiotherapy or hydrotherapy)