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Veterinary nurses work alongside veterinary surgeons (or ‘vets’) to provide a high standard of care for animals.

Most nurses work in vet practices or in larger animal hospitals, though they may also work at safari parks, in research facilities such as labs, within academia or in boarding kennels or animal welfare centres such as dogs’ homes.

The key responsibilities of being a veterinary nurse are many and varied, helping make this an interesting profession where no two days are the same. Duties can include, but are by no means limited to:

  • conducting tests on sick animals
  • supervising anaesthetic during operations
  • undertaking minor surgical procedures
  • potentially supervising other nurses, clerical staff and volunteers

Becoming a Veterinary Nurse

Since it’s a skilled job with a wide range of responsibilities, becoming a veterinary nurses is not easy.

In fact, getting qualified takes significant time and a great deal of hard work and commitment, though the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) advises that “those willing to put in the effort will be rewarded with a career offering variety, interest and daily contact with animals and their owners”.

BVNA web site:

Getting Trained

There are strict training procedures in place for becoming a veterinary nurse. Quite simply, you won’t be able to get a job without having done the required training first.

Qualifications Needed:

First of all, you need to be suitably qualified for this line of work. The BVNA advises that you must have a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grade C or above and these must include maths, English language and a science.

Alternatively, you should hold either an ‘Animal Nursing Assistant’ (ANA) or ‘Veterinary Care Assistant’ (VCA) qualification, or an equivalent. However, individual course providers may have different entry requirements, so check with them before applying.

Getting Professional Training:

To become a professional veterinary nurse you need either:

  • Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing
  • BSc (Honours) degree in veterinary nursing

The Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing qualification, issued by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

To gain this qualification, you need to take the course’s core units and also one of two optional pathways, namely small animal nursing or equine (horses) nursing.

As a student, you will be required to attend college for at least 22 weeks and you will also be required to complete at least 60 full-time weeks of work experience in a training practice.

Throughout your studies and your on-the-job training, you will be required to log what you have learned on a Nursing Progress Log (NPL), which will then be presented to prospective employers.

Alternatively, you can take a BSc (Honours) degree in veterinary nursing. Degree courses can last between 3 and 4 years and should involve some useful work placements. Each university or college will have its own relationships with veterinary practices where you will be required to gain your work experience.

For more information on training, and for a comprehensive list of course providers, visit the RCVS website:

Gaining Experience

Alongside your studies, you should also attempt to get as much ‘on-the-job’ experience as possible.

Again, your course should include practical experience. However, you should still attempt to go above-and-beyond what is required for your course, since competition for jobs can be fierce and a good list of placements can make all the difference.

So, get in touch with local practices, charities or even kennels and volunteer your time.

Accept that you will probably have to start at the very bottom and do some of the most boring and unpleasant tasks for little or no money. But again, the experience and, just as importantly, the contacts you build up, may prove to be invaluable.

Finding Work

Expect to face stiff competition, both when it comes to finding a training practice (TP) where you can work alongside your studies, and then finding a job.

Again, the RCVS provides a full list of practices that welcome students. Don’t just rely on this, however, but instead use your own initiative and get in touch with places you want to work.

If you’re fully qualified and looking for a job, then the BVNA posts vacancies on its website. Alternatively, look in the local press or online jobs boards.

Note that most practices like to recruit from within, so be willing to volunteer or work as a receptionist until a proper paid position comes up.

Benefits of Working as a Veterinary Nurse

Above all, the major attraction of working as a veterinary nurse is that you get to work directly with animals on a daily basis. What’s more, you play a key part in helping make sick animals better.

Other benefits of this line of work include the incredibly varied nature of the job: duties are many and varied and can change regularly, according to a practice’s needs.

This also means you’re able to keep up-to-date on all the latest techniques and, if you work in a practice that invests in its staff, you should constantly be learning new skills. Additionally, many veterinary nurses work their way upwards, taking on greater responsibility and boosting their incomes.

You could, for example, move into practice management, teaching and training other nurses or even become a fully-qualified veterinary surgeon.

Potential Downsides to being a Veterinary Nurse

Arguably the number one downside to being a veterinary nurse is the relatively low pay, particularly in the first few years of your career.

While not minimum wage, nursing in a practice can pay well below a normal nurse’s wage, and you may even be expected to work for free to gain experience at the start of your career.

However, for many, the opportunity of caring for animals for a living more than makes up for this.

Moreover, once you are fully-qualified and have a bit of experience, there are plenty of ways you can take on more responsibilities and so boost your earnings.

Other potential downsides include the prospect of working long hours, with some nurses required to care for animals overnight or at weekends.

Additionally, the work can also be just as emotionally draining as it can be rewarding, particularly if you work for an animal welfare organisation.

In summary our key points for would be Veterinary Nurses

              If you decide being a Veterinary Nurse isnt for you.

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