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How to become a veterinary nurse

Posted on 13 May 2013

Are you thinking of a career as a veterinary nurse but you're not sure how to get started? To celebrate National Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month Blue Cross has put together a guide to help you with your future career...

Is veterinary nursing for you?

There’s no doubt about it – working as a veterinary nurse is hard work, but it’s also extremely rewarding. It’s a stimulating and challenging job that requires lots of different skills. 

You’ll need to have a passion for pets, a strong stomach to cope with the unpleasant sights and smells and the stamina to stand on your feet all day. 

What does a veterinary nurse do? 

Nurses work alongside veterinary surgeons at a surgery, clinic or hospital to care for sick and injured animals. 

A typical day’s work may begin with cleaning out kennels, feeding and treating inpatients. 

This is usually followed by a busy clinic where you would be helping with injections, medical treatments, bandaging and assisting with operations.

Animals aren’t sick from nine to five, so nursing jobs usually involve evening, weekend and Christmas work. 

It’s worth remembering that pets come with owners, so you need to be confident dealing with people too. 

Voluntary work or work experience is a great introduction to nursing and is useful if you’re looking for your first job.

Training as a veterinary nurse

The current veterinary nursing qualification is the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon’s (RCVS) level three diploma in veterinary nursing.  

It can be done on either a full time basis or apprenticeship-style alongside a job in a veterinary practice. It takes between two and three years to qualify.  

Some universities offer a foundation or BSc honours degree in veterinary nursing too – contact them directly for entry requirements and prospectuses. 

To start training as a veterinary nurse you must have the following minimum educational qualifications: 

  • Five GCSEs at grade C and above (or five Scottish Standard Grades one to three), which must include English language, maths and a science subject.  OR
  • An animal nursing assistant (ANA) or veterinary care assistant (VCA) qualification, along with functional skills level two in application of number and communication. 

The British Veterinary Nursing Association can provide details about these qualifications and how to get them.

Other qualifications may be considered acceptable – you’ll need to discuss this with your local college. 

There is no age limit for when you can begin training as a veterinary nurse. 

Qualifying as a veterinary nurse 

To qualify as a veterinary nurse you must:

  • Be enrolled as a student veterinary nurse with the RCVS.
  • Attend college-based study for a minimum of 22 weeks over the period of training before exams are sat – usually two years. The college must be approved by the RCVS.
  • Complete a minimum of 60 full time weeks of practical experience within an RCVS registered training practice.
  • Compile an electronic nursing progress log (NPL) which provides a complete record of the clinical skills you have learned throughout your training.
  • Pass written multiple choice question exams in the theory of veterinary nursing. 
  • Pass a practical exam in veterinary nursing skills.

Once you’re qualified you’ll need to pay an annual registration fee to the RCVS in order to undertake certain privileges under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 Schedule Three Amendment Order 2002.

A list of approved course providers, centres and training practices, as well as an application form to enrol as a student veterinary nurse, is available from the RCVS website.

Nursing at Blue Cross

We employ veterinary nurses at our four hospitals, three of which are in London and one in Grimsby. 

The hospitals are all approved training practices and are well equipped to a high standard, allowing nurses to gain a wide variety of experience. 

We’re looking for sympathetic, caring and enthusiastic people who enjoy working as part of a team and who have a passion for offering an excellent service to pets and their owners.

Nurses at Blue Cross are expected to train for the veterinary nursing qualification. Qualified veterinary nurses have the opportunity to study for further qualifications and to progress to more senior or specialised positions within Blue Cross hospitals.

Don’t forget to keep checking the Blue Cross website to see our latest vacancies. 

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