If you’re passionate about animal welfare, you could consider a career as a veterinary nurse.
Although you need to care about pets and their health, there’s a lot more involved with this demanding role.
Read on to find out exactly what the job entails and what you need to do to become a veterinary nurse.
What is a veterinary nurse?
In the role of veterinary nurse, you will help to provide both routine and emergency healthcare to a variety of animals.
You’ll be involved with hands-on nursing; working alongside veterinary surgeons.
There are three main types of general and private veterinary practices in the United Kingdom that you could work for.
- A General Practice: Working at a general practice involves checking animals’ health, diagnosing diseases, neutering, vaccinating and worming.
- A Referral Practice: Working at this type of practice, you would specialize in more complex animal health cases. This includes areas of expertise such as oncology, orthopaedics and ophthalmology. Also, in a referral practice you could work with specific types of animals, such as dogs, horses or exotic pets.
- An Emergency Practice: This is the equivalent of an animal accident and emergency department. In emergency practices you would often work overnight and at weekends to treat animals who are critically injured or ill and need urgent attention.
What do veterinary nurses actually do?
Your specific tasks as a veterinary nurse will differ depending on the specific practice you work for.
Typically, a day’s work would begin with cleaning kennels, followed by feeding and treating animal patients.
You would then assist veterinary surgeons in the practice’s clinic, where your daily tasks would involve carrying out consultations, bandaging, giving injections, taking blood samples, x-raying, providing medical treatments and helping with surgical operations.
For operations, you would ensure the patient is prepared for surgery, monitor the patient’s vitals during the operation and care for the patient during the recovery process. Veterinary nurses may also educate and support pet owners on how to care for their animals correctly.
The job description of a veterinary nurse can vary from practice to practice.
Your specific duties can also depend on whether you’re working in a specialized area, such as equine or canine. Typically, duties and responsibilities of a veterinary nurse include the following:
- Providing care to animals, such as feeding, grooming, checking vitals and patient monitoring.
- Administering treatments to patients, such as tablets, injections and blood transfusions.
- Performing diagnostic tests, such as urine analysis and blood sampling.
- Handling and restraining animals confidently.
- Maintaining hygiene and cleanliness.
- Assisting with minor surgical procedures.
- Communicating with pet owners in a reassuring manner.
- Educating pet owners about things like vaccinations, flea prevention and nutrition.
- Working to the professional code of conduct.
- Supporting student veterinary nurses on work placements.
Key Skills for a Veterinary Nurse
Working as a veterinary nurse, you’ll find each day brings different challenges. You will need to possess a number of key skills to successfully navigate the daily variety of duties and responsibilities.
The job of a veterinary nurse is physically demanding.
You’ll be on your feet for much of the day and will need to have the physical strength to lift and restrain animals. As well as having a good level of fitness, you’ll need to have key skills such as the following:
- A real passion for animal welfare and health.
- Excellent communication skills.
- The ability to effectively work in a team.
- The ability to work independently and use your own initiative.
- The ability to stay calm in stressful situations.
- An excellent attention to detail.
Useful Work Experience
Before you can apply for an accredited course to become a veterinary nurse, you must have completed relevant work experience. Gaining a placement in a veterinary practice is a must, but it’s very beneficial to get experience in other animal related work as well.
If you are interested in starting a career in veterinary nursing a great stepping stone is taking a online veterinary nursing courses. The cpd certified Vet Nursing Level 3 Course is a great way to learn the core aspects of the roles before going on to complete a qualification in the field.
For instance, you could do work experience at an animal rescue centre, a kennel, a cattery, a rehoming centre or a local farm.
Doing an unpaid work placement helps you to secure a place on a veterinary nurse course, but it also allows you to understand exactly what is required of the veterinary nurse role to find out if you’re really suited to it.
Finding work placements can be difficult though. This is because veterinary careers are very popular, so the competition for work experience is high. However, if you are determined, you’re sure to eventually find a work placement.
Contact a number of veterinary practices to find a vet practice and be sure to show how keen you are to find a placement. It can be helpful to speak directly with a practice’s veterinary nurse on the telephone instead of simply shooting off a generic email. In addition, some practices and charities offer specific veterinary nurse work placements.
Average Salaries for a Veterinary Nurse
The salary you can expect to earn as a veterinary nurse varies by practice and location.
On average, entry-level veterinary nurses working in a practice earn £20,588 per year. You could also receive additional wages for working unsociable hours, such as nights, weekends and bank holidays.
It’s possible you could receive other benefits as well, such as an accommodation allowance and discounted or free veterinary treatments and pet foods.
Once you have experience in this role and you have either gained additional responsibilities or qualifications, you can earn a higher salary.
On average, experienced veterinary nurses earn around £24,500 per year. The maximum amount you can earn is around £28,500 per year.
Qualifications for a Veterinary Nurse
A Level Three Diploma in Veterinary Nursing
The quickest way is to complete a Level Three Diploma in Veterinary Nursing. If you study full-time, this course usually takes only two years to complete. This vocational qualification route can be taken in two ways.
Through an Advanced Apprenticeship, you’ll study while working in a veterinary practice. You will earn a wage while you learn, and some employers will even fund your course. Through a non-apprenticeship route, you’ll be required to do a work placement during your course of study.
You can find work experience off you own bat, but most colleges assist students in finding voluntary placements. Whichever route you take to gain your Level Three Diploma in Veterinary Nursing, you’ll spend time in both a classroom and a veterinary practice to gain the knowledge and experience you need to pass your exams and become a fully-fledge veterinary nurse.
To be accepted onto a course, you will typically need at least five GCSEs with minimum grades of C or four, or equivalent qualifications.
Maths, English and a science subject must be three of the five qualifications you have in order to meet the entry requirements.
A Degree in Veterinary Nursing
Another pathway into veterinary nursing is to complete a degree course at university.
You can do either a Foundation Degree in Veterinary Nursing or a Bachelor’s Degree in Veterinary Nursing.
Either of these courses usually take three or four years to complete.
With a degree course, you will still spend time learning practical skills on work placements but you’ll spend more academic time in a classroom. The main benefits of taking the degree route is you will have a more structured approach to your learning and you’ll have more time to balance your work placement with your academic studies.
In addition, once you have a degree, you can move into specialised areas like animal physiotherapy through a postgraduate degree. Also, having a degree under your belt opens up more career options in other industries.
Entry-level requirements for a degree course differ from one university to another. Typically, you will need related A Levels or equivalent qualifications.
Online CPD Vet Courses
Our online vet nursing courses with CPD (Continuing Professional Development) certifications offer a comprehensive and flexible learning experience for aspiring veterinary nurses and professionals.
These online veterinary courses provide a structured curriculum that covers essential topics in veterinary nursing, including anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and clinical procedures.
What sets our program apart is the inclusion of CPD certifications, which enable students to continuously enhance their skills and knowledge throughout their careers.
These certifications are recognised and respected within the veterinary field, demonstrating a commitment to staying current and competent in the ever-evolving world of animal healthcare.
With the convenience of online learning, students can balance their studies with their work and personal lives, making it easier than ever to pursue a fulfilling career in veterinary nursing while achieving valuable CPD milestones along the way.
Once you have become an accredited and experienced veterinary nurse, there are many areas you could move into to progress in your career. For instance, you could become a head veterinary nurse or a clinical coach.
You could also specialise in a specific type of veterinary nursing, such as rehabilitation, diagnostics or anaesthesia. Another option is to progress to a managerial role, such as a practice manager.
If you care about animal welfare and are able to take on a number of demanding challenges on a daily basis, you could be suited to this career. Your daily tasks as a veterinary nurse will involve monitoring animals, helping with operations and empathically communicating with pet owners.
You will have to gain a recognised qualification in order to become an accredited veterinary nurse, but before you apply you will need to have completed some work experience. By doing a voluntary placement, you can discover whether you’re cut out for the job.
Once you successfully pass exams, you can become an accredited veterinary nurse, in which you can expect to earn an entry-level salary of around £20,500 per year. After a number of years’ experience, you can progress in your career and earn a higher salary.