35-40 per week
£18,000 + per year
Veterinary nurses support vets in providing nursing care for sick, injured and hospitalised animals. They also play an important role in educating owners on good standards of animal care and welfare. If you love animals and want to look after their health, this could be ideal for you.
In this job, you'll need to be calm and confident when handling animals. You’ll also need to be sympathetic when dealing with upset or nervous owners.
You can qualify as a veterinary nurse either through work-based training or by taking a higher education qualification.
As a veterinary nurse, your work will vary day to day, but you're likely to:
- speak to animal owners to find out what the problem is
- take blood, urine and other samples from animals where required
- take x-rays if needed
- prepare animals for treatment
- assist vets during treatments or operations
- give injections and medication under instruction of the vet
- carry out minor procedures, such as removing stitches
- talk to pet owners about how to care for their animals while they recover
- supervise and help train animal care assistants
- keep administration records up to date.
You might also:
- take care of in-patient animals, for instance feeding, cleaning and exercising them
- hold clinics for post operation checks and weight management
- give owners advice about preventative care.
In a smaller practice, you may also cover some reception duties.
Working hours and conditions
You would work between 35 and 40 hours a week, often with evening, weekend and on-call duties.
Your employer would usually provide a uniform and protective clothing.
Qualified veterinary nurses can earn between £18,000 and £22,000 a year, depending on experience. Senior veterinary nurses can earn up to £26,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You can qualify as a veterinary nurse through work-based training or by completing a higher education course. Both of these routes allow you to register as a veterinary nurse with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). You'll need this registration to find work.
You can train on an advanced apprenticeship in Veterinary Nursing or take a college course that includes work placements. Both of these options lead to the Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing qualification.
To enrol on an apprenticeship, you'll need to find work as a trainee with an approved veterinary training practice before you can start. With a college course, the college may be able to organise work placements for you, although you can find them yourself if you wish.
When you're looking for work or a placement, it will help if you have some relevant experience. This can be as a volunteer with a vet, or in other settings, such as local kennels and animal welfare centres, or with the PDSA or RSPCA.
Visit the RVCS for a list of approved training providers and colleges
You'll normally need some GCSEs or equivalent qualifications to get onto an advanced apprenticeship or college course. These include:
- 5 GCSEs (A*-C) including maths, English and a science
- Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Nursing Assistants plus some GCSEs.
Entry requirements vary between training providers offering these courses, so check with them for exact details.
The Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing can take around two to three years to complete and you can choose to specialise in equine care or working with small animals.
The higher education route involves taking an RCVS-approved veterinary nursing foundation degree or degree. This option combines a substantial amount of time on work placement with an academic qualification. It normally takes between two and four years to complete the training.
To get on to a higher education course you'll usually need:
- at least two A levels, preferably in chemistry and/or biology, or equivalent qualifications
- at least five GCSEs (A*-C) including English, maths and a science
- evidence of relevant work experience - paid or voluntary.
Check the exact requirements with individual colleges and universities.
You can search for course providers on the RCVS and UCAS websites.
- RCVS (approved qualifications and providers)
The British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) and the RCVS have more careers advice on their websites.
Training and development
Once you are qualified and experienced, you can add to your skills and knowledge by doing short courses or further qualifications. The BVNA runs a number of short courses as part of their continuing professional development programme for members and non-members.
You could also develop your career prospects by taking higher qualifications, such as a foundation degree or degree in veterinary nursing. If you already have a degree, you could take a postgraduate course in veterinary science.
Skills, interests and qualities
To become a veterinary nurse, you'll need:
- concern for animal welfare without being too sentimental
- calmness and confidence when handling animals
- a tactful and sympathetic approach with upset or nervous owners
- an interest in science, particularly biology
- willingness to carry out unpleasant tasks
- the ability to communicate well with owners and colleagues
- administration and IT skills
- a willingness to take professional development training.
Tel: 02476 696996
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)
Tel: 020 7222 2001
British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA)
Tel: 01279 408 644
British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA)
Tel: 01638 723 555
Many veterinary nurses are employed in general veterinary practices, but you could also find work in research establishments, laboratories, universities, colleges, zoological/wildlife parks, charities, pharmaceutical companies and breeding/boarding kennels.
With experience, you may be able to take on more responsibility, such as practice management, supervising and training new staff or working in veterinary supplies. You could also complete further studies to become a lecturer or researcher.
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