Veterinary nurse

PUBLISHED: 13:46 27 February 2006 | UPDATED: 09:42 06 May 2010

Could you become a vet?

Could you become a vet?

NAME: Jo Grant AGE: 23 PERSONAL: Jo has always loved animals and her family had many, many pets. At the age of 15, she got a Saturday job helping out at a kennels,and when she finished her GCSEs the boss offered her a full-time post. Jo enjoyed working wi

NAME: Jo Grant

AGE: 23

PERSONAL: Jo has always loved animals and her family had many, many pets. At the age of 15, she got a Saturday job helping out at a kennels,and when she finished her GCSEs the boss offered her a full-time post.

Jo enjoyed working with dogs but after two years she felt she was ready for a new challenge. When she heard that a vacancy would be opening up at the local vet's practice for a veterinary nurse she decided to apply for it.

She got the job and began to train for formal qualifications. She qualified three years ago, and is still loving her job at the practice.

JOB DESCRIPTION

Veterinary nurses provide care for animals receiving treatment in a veterinary practice. They work as part of a team under the direction of a veterinary surgeon.

Typical nursing duties include keeping animals calm while the vet examines them, collecting samples, preparing animals for surgery and assisting the surgeon during operations.

They may administer drugs and injections and carry out tests, medical treatments and minor surgical procedures, although these tasks are likely to be performed under supervision.

Nurses also talk to the animal owners and will often help to educate them about the best ways to care for their pets.

In some practices, the nurses will have administrative duties such as maintaining levels of equipment and drugs, managing the staff rotas, making appointments and keeping accounts.

They may also provide basic care for the animals, such as cleaning, feeding and grooming, although in some practices these tasks would be carried out by an animal-nursing assistant.

Most veterinary nurses are employed in general practices, but opportunities also exist in animal welfare charities and organisation, veterinary hospitals and teaching schools, horse clinics, research societies and zoos.

SKILLS & PERSONALITY

Veterinary nurses need to be caring and genuinely interested in animals. However, as some animals brought in for treatment will be in a very bad condition or even beyond help, it is important not to be too sentimental.

They should be able to handle a wide variety of animals and be prepared to deal with the messier aspects of caring for them. They should also be free from phobias or allergies to any type of creature.

Nurses don't just work with animals - they also work with owners and the rest of the veterinary team so people skills are important.

Tact and sympathy will be required when dealing with nervous or upset owners, and they should be able to provide accurate and easily understandable information.

They also need to be reliable, responsible and able to work as part of a team.

TRAINING & ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Veterinary nurses usually train through the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Veterinary Nurse Training Scheme which leads to NVQs at Levels 2 and 3.

To enrol on the scheme, students need to be at least 17 with five GCSE grades at A-C, including English and two science subjects, or equivalent qualifications.

They also need to have found full-time employment at an RCVS-approved training practice. Students who want to work with horses will need to be in an approved equine training practice.

Students will undertake clinical training at work. Most will also attend college, either on a day-release or block-release basis, although some practices offer their own in-house training courses. Qualification usually takes at least two years after which students will be able to register on the RCVS List of Veterinary Nurses.

Alternatively, candidates can study for an RCVS approved HND or degree in veterinary nursing. These courses will usually be full-time and will normally require higher entry qualifications such as A-levels.

Integrated courses, which combine an academic qualification with the more practical NVQ-based training, are also available at a number of universities and colleges.

For candidates who don't meet the entry requirements for the RCVS training scheme, the British Veterinary Nursing Association provides a one-year day-release course, the Level 2 Certificate for Animal Nursing Assistants.

No formal qualifications are required but students will need to be 16 or over and employed in a veterinary practice. Having successfully passed the course, they will be eligible to train as veterinary nurses.

Some veterinarians may employ people to carry out some of the duties of a nurse without requiring formal qualifications or providing training.

However, these employees will not be entitled to call themselves veterinary nurses and will find it difficult to find work in other practices and organisations.

EARNINGS & PROSPECTS

Salaries vary but unqualified nurses can expect to start on around £10,000. Qualified and experienced nurses can earn between £14,000 and £17,000 and senior nurses can earn in excess of £18,000.

Some practices pay nurses a lower basic salary, but give them a share of the practice's profits or operate a bonus system.

Veterinary nurses can develop their careers by specialising in one particular area of veterinary work. They may also undertake further studie, or move into practice management or training. Job opportunities also exist within the pharmaceutical and veterinary supplies industry.

MAIN MOAN

"Sometimes there's really nothing we can do for a pet and we have to put it to sleep. Even when you know that's the kindest thing to do, it's still a difficult decision, and it can be very hard breaking the news to the owner."

MAIN SATISFACTION

"I love animals and enjoy caring for them, but I really like people too. With this job I get the chance to be around pets and their owners which is perfect for me."

MORE INFORMATION

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons: www.rcvs.org.uk

The British Veterinary Nursing Association: www.bvna.org.uk

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