35-40 per week
£14,000 + per year
Veterinary nurses help veterinary surgeons (vets) by 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.
A veterinary nurse needs to be calm and confident when handling animals. You’ll need to be sympathetic when dealing with upset or nervous owners. You’ll also be willing to carry out messy or unpleasant tasks.
You can qualify as a veterinary nurse either through work-based training or by taking a higher education qualification.
As a veterinary nurse, your duties would include:
- preparing and carrying out nursing care plans
- holding animals and keeping them calm during treatment
- giving injections and drugs (as instructed by the vet)
- getting blood, urine and other samples from animals, and carrying out laboratory work at the practice
- sterilising instruments
- taking x-rays
- preparing animals for operations
- helping vets during operations
- carrying out minor procedures such as removing stitches.
- talking to clients about the care and progress of their animals
You would often have other responsibilities, including:
- taking care of animals staying in house (feeding, cleaning their accommodation, grooming and exercising)
- holding clinics for suture removal, post operation checks and weight management
- giving owners advice about caring for their animals
You could also have administration and 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.
Veterinary nurses can earn between £14,000 and £22,000 a year, depending on experience. Senior veterinary nurses can earn around £25,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You can qualify as a veterinary nurse either through work-based training or through higher education. Both of these routes lead to Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) registration as a veterinary nurse.
For this option, you will need to find work at a veterinary practice before you can start on a relevant Level 2 qualification. The work may be full-time or part-time but should cover the duration of the course, which can take up to 12 months to complete.
Level 2 qualifications include:
- City & Guilds (C&G) Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants
- Central Qualifications (CQ) Diploma for Veterinary Nursing Assistants / Diploma in Animal Nursing
- ABC Certificate for Animal Nursing Assistants.
Entry requirements vary between colleges offering these courses, so please check with them for exact details.
See the RCVS website for a list of training centres.
Once complete, you would then move onto the Level 3 qualification:
- C&G Diploma in Veterinary Nursing
- CQ Diploma in Veterinary Nursing.
For the Diploma, you will normally need five GCSEs at grade C or above, including English, maths and a science, or have completed one of the qualifications at Level 2.
The Diploma can take around two years to complete and, along with core units, you can choose to specialise in equine care or working with small animals.
When you are looking for work as a trainee or assistant, it will help if you have relevant experience. This could be as a volunteer with a local vet or in other kinds of settings, such as local kennels or RSPCA centres.
The British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) has more careers advice on its website.
The higher education route involves taking an RCVS-approved veterinary nursing foundation degree or degree. This combines a substantial amount of time on placement with the academic qualification. It normally takes between two and four years to complete.
For a higher education course you would usually need:
- at least two A levels, preferably in chemistry and/or biology, or equivalent qualifications
- at five GCSEs (A-C) including English language, 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.
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 run 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 or, if you already have a degree, several universities offer postgraduate options in veterinary sciences.
Skills, interests and qualities
To become a veterinary nurse, you will need to have:
- concern for animals 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 messy or unpleasant tasks
- the ability to communicate well with owners and colleagues
- administration and IT skills.
Tel: 02476 696996
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)
62-64 Horseferry Road
Tel: 020 7222 2001
British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA)
82 Greenway Business Centre
Harlow Business Park
Tel: 01279 408644
British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA)
31 Market St
Tel: 01638 723555
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.
You may find the following link useful for job vacancies and general reading:
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