Do you want to be a veterinary nurse?

If you’d like to work with animals you’ll find veterinary nursing a demanding yet rewarding career choice. It’s a varied job where no two days are ever the same.

To be a veterinary nurse, along with a love of animals you’ll need to be comfortable working with lots of different people. As well as the veterinary team you’ll be working with the animals’ owners, who at times will be upset and worried.

The work can be physically demanding too. You’ll spend long shifts standing up and on the move. And you’ll come across some unpleasant sights and smells that you’ll need a strong stomach to deal with.

Is veterinary nursing right for you?

Before you start training, we advise that you get some work experience so you can be sure a career in veterinary nursing is right for you. Talk to some registered veterinary nurses who can tell you first-hand exactly what the job involves. And get as much animal handling experience as you can. Stables, catteries, kennels, pet shops, dog trainers, rescue centres and private zoos all potentially offer excellent opportunities.

Veterinary nursing is a career open to people of all ages as there’s no age limit to when you can start training. Many animal charities and vet schools publish free and distance learning courses online. It’s worth having a look at these as they’ll give you an idea of the kinds of things you’ll need to learn. Before you sign up for any courses though, make sure they’re accredited by the RCVS or a well-known educational organisation.

It’s also worth reading the websites of industry bodies such as the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA).  They’ll give you a realistic view of the job and, if you sign-up for their newsletter, will keep you up to date with industry news.

What does a veterinary nurse do?

A veterinary nurse provides expert care as part of a veterinary team at a surgery, clinic or hospital. Veterinary nurses also play a significant role in teaching owners how to take good care of their pets and help them stay healthy.

The role of the veterinary nurse is varied and no two days are the same. Animals aren’t sick from nine to five so veterinary nurses usually have to work in the evenings, at the weekends and over holidays such as Christmas.  You may:

  • Clean out kennels
  • Feed and walk inpatients
  • Create nursing care plans alongside other members of the veterinary team
  • Prepare patients for operations
  • Assist in the operating theatre
  • Carry out veterinary nurse consultations
  • Administer medications and fluid therapy
  • Observe and record patients' vital signs (temperature, pulse, respiration and pain)
  • Apply bandages to wounds and fractures
  • Educate owners on nutrition and preventative health care and give basic behavioural advice
  • Assist during emergency procedures
  • Carry out a range of diagnostic tests in the practice laboratory (e.g. blood samples, urine samples)
  • Take radiographs
  • Dispense medication and show owners how to administer it
  • Support and manage nursing teams

There are two routes to becoming a qualified veterinary nurse:

Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing / Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Apprenticeship)

Abbeydale veterinary nurse student looking in microscope

The Diploma in Veterinary Nursing leads to registration with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and a successful career as a registered Veterinary Nurse.

The course content is the same for both routes and both are assessed through assignments, written and practical examinations. However, to meet the apprenticeship funding rules, students also have to undertake an oral examination. To be eligible for an apprenticeship you must be employed in a veterinary practice.

To study with us you will need to complete a minimum of 1,800 hours of practical experience through a placement or employment in a veterinary practice. The veterinary practice must be an RCVS approved Training and Assessment Practice (TP) or Auxiliary TP (aTP).

You can work or volunteer on either a full or part-time basis. Please get in touch if you’d like our advice on the minimum hours of work experience you should complete each week.