Do you like animals and care about their health? Do you think you could carry out messy and unpleasant tasks and deal with nervous or upset owners? If this is the case, you could become a veterinary nurse. You would need to have concern about animals but not be too sentimental.
What do Veterinary Nurses do?
As a veterinary nurse, you would help veterinary surgeons to treat injured and hospitalised animals. Your duties could include:
- preparing and realising nursing care plans
- holding animals and keeping them calm during treatment
- giving injections and drugs as per surgeon’s instructions
- getting blood, urine and other samples from animals
- carrying out laboratory work at the practice
- sterilising instruments
- taking x-rays
- assisting surgeons during operations
- carrying out minor procedures such as tacking out stretches
- discussing animal’s recovery and further care with owners
Depending on where you work you could have some other duties, such as:
- taking care about animals staying in house
- holding clinics for suture removal, post operation checks and weight management
- performing administrative tasks
Entry Requirements and Qualifications
You could qualify for the job of a veterinary nurse either by taking work-based training or through higher education.
If you choose work-based training, you would need to find a veterinary clinic which would offer you a full-time or part-time position for the duration of your Level 2 studies which usually take 12 months to complete. This first job can be voluntary as you would need to have some experience to get into a paid position. You can visit the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) for some useful reading on how to find your first job at the veterinary clinic.
Normally, you would have a choice between the following qualifications:
- 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
After completing one of these courses, you would need to take a Level 3 programme, such as:
To apply to these Diploma programmes, you would need to have five GSCEs at grade C or above, including English, maths, and a science, or have completed a Level 2 certificate course. It will take you two years to complete either of the Diploma programmes and you would have a choice to specialise in equine care or work with small animals.
If you decide to qualify for this job through higher education, you would need to take a veterinary nursing foundation degree or degree that is approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). For the full list of RCVS-approved porgrammes visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons - approved qualifications.
These programmes normally consist of in-class work and clinic placements and take from two to four years to complete. To qualify for admission, you would need to have at least two A levels, preferably in chemistry and biology, five GSCEs at grades A to C, and some prior paid or voluntary work experience.
Hours and Income
As a veterinary nurse, you would normally work between 35 and 40 hours a week but could have some evening, weekend, or on-call duties as well.
The following are the estimated levels of salary for veterinary nurses in the UK, according to the National Career Service:
Veterinary Nurse Salaries
Opportunities and Career Development
Most veterinary nurses are employed with clinics, although some could find job with research centres, zoos, universities, and laboratories. You could look for current openings on the BVNA website and in the local press.
With experience, you could assume more responsibility, such as practice management, supervising and training new staff, or working in veterinary supplies. It is also possible to complete further studies and become a lecturer or researcher.
For further general reading about the job of a veterinary nurse and current vacancies in this field, visit: