Working as a Veterinary nurse

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Sharon is training to be a veterinary nurse in Cheltenham under the supervision of qualified vets and veterinary nurses.

In six months, when she has passed all her exams and submitted her portfolio, she will be able to register with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons as a veterinary nurse.

What does a veterinary nurse do?

I care for hospitalised animals, giving any medication or injections they might need. I help the vet during examinations and operations, and go out on visits. I also carry out laboratory examinations such as blood and urine testing.

What other responsibilities do you have?

How2Become - Vet

I help in the nurse clinics, giving general information to owners about domestic animals, doing post-operative checks and taking stitches out. I position animals for radiographs, develop the x-rays and take blood samples. It's also my job to keep the surgery clean and hygienic by disinfecting it daily.

How is your day organised?

We have a rota system covering different duties and responsibilities. For instance, when on kennel nurse duty I will also look after the sick and recovering animals and prepare bills for clients on the computer. As a laboratory nurse I will be involved in doing laboratory tests and sending off samples to external laboratories for further testing.

What is your role during operations?

I prepare animals for theatre and I draw up medications such as pain relief, anaesthetic and antibiotics. During an operation, I monitor all aspects of anaesthesia, under the guidance of the veterinary surgeon.

What kind of equipment do you use?

All sorts of veterinary instruments – especially scissors. I regularly use an x-ray machine/developer, laboratory equipment such as a microscope, machines for analysing blood samples and an autoclave for equipment sterilisation. I also use numerous pieces of equipment to monitor patients under anaesthetic, including stethoscopes.

What was your route into this job?

I began by studying at college where I got my qualifications in animal care. While I was still at college, I started working on reception in the evenings at the clinic. This experience led to being offered a post as a trainee nurse.

What has your training involved so far?

My training is organised by a training provider who also assesses my NVQ portfolios. I have to show I understand areas such as anatomy and physiology, anaesthesia and radiography. I attend college one day a week to cover the theory side of the course. At the clinic I have done my Certificate of Competence in the Safe use of Veterinary Medicines.

What hours do you work?

On a typical day I work from 8.00am to 5.30pm. I am on call one weekend in four and some evenings, but I get time off in lieu or for working anti-social hours.

What do you like about your job?

I enjoy working in a team and I really enjoy being in a place where I can learn about veterinary medicine. Above all, I love working with animals – especially when a patient comes in very sick and we can make them better.

Are there any downsides?

The hours are long and I am on my feet for most of the day. Also, this profession isn't very well paid, considering the level of training and knowledge that is required.

Sharon's route to becoming a Veterinary nurse

  • GCSEs.
  • National Certificate/Diploma in Animal Care.
  • NVQ Level 2 in Animal Care.
  • HND in Veterinary Nursing.

Sharon's Veterinary nurse tips

  • Be prepared to tackle all jobs associated with looking after sick animals.
  • You need a strong stomach – blood, faeces and vomit are everyday sights.

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Veterinary nurse salary information

  • The starting salary for a qualified veterinary nurse is around £13,000. A head nurse can earn over £20,000.
  • Some practices also provide accommodation. Student salaries vary and may include accommodation and a contribution towards training fees.

Career as a Veterinary nurse

  • It takes two years to train as a veterinary nurse. This involves employment-based training at a practice approved by the RCVS.
  • The minimum qualifications to start a training course are 5 GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) or equivalent, including English, maths and two science subjects, a BTEC National Diploma or Certificate in Animal Care, or a BVNA (British Veterinary Nurse Association) Animal Nursing Assistant Course (ANA) – a dayrelease or correspondence course.
  • Trainees work towards NVQs/SVQs in Veterinary Nursing at Levels 2 and 3 and have to pass exams and submit a portfolio to obtain the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Veterinary Nursing Certificate.
  • HNDs and degrees are another route to qualification, although students are not paid during placements.
  • There are specialised courses for Equine Veterinary Nurses.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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