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Get started as a veterinary nurse

Written by George Owen

Getting Started as a Veterinary Nurse

If you love animals and have always enjoyed caring for them, it may be that you’ve started thinking about turning your passion into a career as a veterinary nurse.

Whether you’re still at school or you’re looking to start afresh from a different career, here’s how to get started.

What’s the Difference Between a Vet and a Vet Nurse?

The difference between a vet and a vet nurse is very much like the difference between a doctor and a nurse in a hospital. Vets will usually carry out examinations, diagnose conditions, prescribe medicines and perform surgeries, while veterinary nurses will assist with these tasks as well as taking care of the animals in between.

What do Veterinary Nurses do?

If you can expect anything from a career as a vet nurse, it’s very long, very full days!

On any given day you could be cleaning out kennels, helping with medical procedures, dressing wounds, feeding the patients, or giving out much needed reassuring cuddles! You will also often communicate with pet owners (who will sometimes be worried and upset) as well as dealing with the more unpleasant sides of the job – from cleaning up accidents to dealing with the loss of an animal.

Hours can be long and, since a lot of a vet nurse’s time is spent caring for animals in between vet appointments, will often include night, weekend and holiday work.

However, most vet nurses will tell you that the job is also one of the most interesting, varied and rewarding careers an animal lover can choose.

What Skills do I Need?

Firstly (and most obviously), an endless love for animals of all shapes and sizes!

Life as a vet nurse is not all fluffy kittens and puppies; you may have to deal with animals that are scared or unused to human contact, as well as the many different species that can be kept as pets, from tropical birds to exotic snakes!

Other than a passion for animals you’ll also need to be hardworking, organised, have the stamina to keep up your concentration despite long hours on your feet, the ability to not be squeamish, and the communication skills, care, and empathy it takes to deal with both poorly pets and their owners.

How do I Get Started?

Veterinary nursing is a great career to get into at a later stage in life or as a change from another career, as you can usually undertake your training while working at a surgery. This also makes it an attractive option for students or graduates!

To start out with, you’ll need a minimum of five GCSEs at C or above (include science, maths, and English language) or an animal nursing or veterinary care assistant qualification, with level 2 functional skills in numbers and communication.

This should get you a place on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons level 3 diploma in veterinary nursing, which you can complete full-time or part-time while working in a surgery over three years.

If you’d rather go to university, some unis also offer a foundation or BSc degree in vet nursing.

Once you’ve completed your training, along with 60 full-time weeks of experience, your complete Nursing Progress Log, and all of your practical and theory exams, you’ll be able to register with the RCVS and begin your new career as a professional veterinary nurse.

If you’re interested in a career as a veterinary nurse, please get in touch with our specialist recruitment consultants to discuss our current vacancies, or upload your CV today to register your interest in relevant jobs.