How to become a qualified Vet Nurse in the UK
You have two major routes to become a qualified veterinary nurse in the UK: Part time courses while working for a veterinary practice or full time nursing courses at a recognized college or university. You should ideally begin thinking about that at your GCE or Scottish Standard Grade stage, where you will require at least 5 GCEs at C level or 3 Scottish SGs at grades 1-3.

Most people interested in a career in veterinary nursing in the UK have little idea either of what qualifications are required or what further education they have to enroll for in order to achieve their ambition. The requirements are not as extensive as those for a veterinary surgeon, of course, but it should not be assumed that they are significantly less than a regular nurse just because you are dealing with animals and not humans.

The normal educational requirements will include a minimum of two passes in a science subject, such as chemistry and biology, though this is not cast in stone and other good paper qualifications may suffice. However, if your qualifications vary from those required by the RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, you should write and explain why you believe you should be accepted.

Before you go to all this trouble, it is important that you understand what the job entails. A veterinary nurse does the same job in veterinary surgery as a SRN does for a doctor or hospital. Your job will involve working with the vet to care for animals and undertake some minor surgical techniques, such as stitches and some medical treatments. You may also run clinics for owners on pet care, or care for their animals if they use animals in their own profession (farmers, sportspersons, etc).

Not only will you offer expert guidance, help during surgery and help to run a veterinary practice, but you will also have the opportunity for further training to become a veterinary surgeon yourself. However, that is all in your future; right now we will focus on how to become a qualified veterinary nurse in the UK.

There are some other qualifications other than GCE and SSG that will enable you to enter the course, including a GNVQ in Health and Social Care and a BTEC First or National Diploma in Animal care. Many overseas qualifications are also accepted, and you could also take a BVNA Pre-Veterinary Training Course that is available on a day-release basis from any appropriate vet practice.

Equine practice is a speciality of its own, and if you have worked in an equine veterinary practice for at least four years then you could enroll for the Equine Veterinary Nursing Course that qualifies you to work with horses.

The training course to become a Veterinary Nurse, and use the letters VN after your name, takes at least two years and you have to apply to the British Veterinary Nursing Association to enroll. You can attend classes while working for a veterinary practice that has been approved as a training practice by the RCVS. If the practice you work for is not on the approved list, then you cannot be accepted for the course. This is something to keep in mind when selecting a veterinary practice to work with.

However, you can take the option of a veterinary nursing degree at university, college or a dedicated veterinary college such as the Dick Vet in Edinburgh (The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies). Such colleges offer you a degree in veterinary nursing, and you do not have to work while studying.

However, it is regarded as a university and you will be landed with student loans. Whereas a veterinary nurse training while working will be paid, you will be paying out, although the qualification will be immense in your future career if you want to go further in veterinary medicine.

You will also find, however, that academically trained nurses seeking their first employment are less in demand than those trained while working in practice, because they have less practical training in veterinary nursing, and need more spoon-feeding in the early months of their employment.

If you go for the qualifying while in employment route, in order to make sure that you are employed with the appropriate employer for you to be accepted for training you should ask vets that are seeking nursing trainees if they have been approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons as a `Training Practice`. If the answer is no, then look elsewhere until you find one. This is one requirement that you cannot bypass without going for a full-time college course.

Applying for a job in approved practice is just like applying for any other job. Make sure you have a properly formulated CV that presents you as the type of person they want to employ. You must display a passion for caring for animals, and include any part time or holiday work you have done with local vets. That should be something for you to focus on during school holidays if you seriously desire veterinary nursing as a career, and if you are lucky you might even get a vacation job with an approved practice that you can continue after your GCEs!

Be prepared for the usual interview questions: do you like animals, why do you want this job, what do you think you can contribute to the practice? Do you have pets at home, and are you squeamish about blood or body waste? You might not be asked that last question, but it helps to have a strong stomach in veterinary practice.

Basically that`s about it, but if you are genuinely passionate about animals and want to work with them in the capacity of helping to maintain their healthy and cure them of illness and injury, then you have chosen the right career, and it will show in your interviews and in your work once you are accepted by a RCVS approved training veterinary practice.

For further information on Vet Nurse salary rates and our current veterinary nurse jobs please contact Alpha Impact

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