Working as a Locum Veterinary Nurse
In order to get work as a locum veterinary nurse (locum VN), you must first be a qualified vet nurse and a member of the RCVS. Some practices insist on a minimum 6 months experience working in an environment related to that of the work, i.e. small animals, rural, equine, etc., while others really only want a general practice assistant with nursing experience.

Other qualities that a practice might seek when advertising for a locum veterinary nurse are fluency in English, an ability to work by yourself and experience in anaesthesia and/or clinical procedures. A lot depends on the type of practice and why they are looking for a locum vet nurse - so why do veterinary practices employ locum nurses?

Mainly it is to assist with emergencies and hospitalised cases, administering drugs, monitoring the patient and also assisting a veterinary surgeon in surgical procedures. ECC (emergency and critical care) experience is not always necessary, though some practices may request it. It may also be to stand in for a nurse on holiday, long term illness or pregnancy leave.

Whatever the reason for you being required, there are a number of advantages to be gained in working as a locum veterinary nurse. Here are five of these that you should look out for in the job offer:

  1. Working as a locum VN enables you to take short or longer-term contracts to suit your personal circumstances. Perhaps you are not ready to settle down in one particular area of the country, and maybe you would rather work on a series of locum contracts that enables you travel around till you find your ideal location.

  2. Perhaps you have recently moved to the UK to find work as a veterinary nurse, and are having difficulty in finding a permanent position. Or maybe, as in a) above, you want to see more of the country before settling in the UK permanently.

  3. A significant benefit of working as a locum veterinary nurse gives you experience in a wide range of veterinary work. Had you been working in just the one practice, you would become experienced in the main work carried out by that practice, but by working in many different practices in an equally varied number of geographical locations, you will gain a broad knowledge of veterinary nursing work and be able to adapt to the correct permanent VN job when it comes along.

  4. Although ECC experience might not be necessary, you will get the opportunity to train in this type of work, particularly if some of the practices for which you work are training practices. You will be able to brush up on your skills and keep up to date with modern veterinary surgical advances by selecting jobs in specific types of practice and specializations.

  5. When looking for work as a veterinary locum nurse, you should keep several factors in mind, each of which will have an impact on your decision of whether or not to apply for or even accept a specific locum VN post. Here are five of the more important of these:

  1. Accommodation: are you provided with accommodation or do you have to arrange your own? Ideally, the accommodation will be close to the practice and either offered free or rented. In some cases you might be able to negotiate this when you are offered the job, although for many practices the fee will be fixed and non-negotiable. It should be furnished, and you should check on allocation of power costs and whether or not linen, bedding, crockery and kitchen utensils are included.

  2. Transport: is a car provided or do you use your own? This may not be an issue for a small animal practice where there may be virtually no traveling involved, but is essential for rural practices. If a car is not provided you should make sure you are given an adequate mileage allowance for using your own car. You also have to consider transport between the accommodation and the practice: if large distances are involved then you should either request an allowance or more convenient accommodation.

  3. Taxes: ideally the practice will treat you as an employee, and deduct income tax and national insurance at source. If not, then you may have to become self employed, become a limited company or work from an umbrella company. Becoming a limited company offers you the greatest latitude for claiming tax allowances, and most practices will insist a locum veterinary surgeon or locum vet nurse work under one of these three options.

  4. Insurance: as a locum you will be responsible for your own professional indemnity insurance. This protects you from claims made against you for accidental errors in practise or judgment. It is somewhat more complicated than that, but suffice it to say that you must take out your own policy. In rare cases the practice might add you to its general policy but don't count on it. Ask the question by all means, but expect to pay your own.

  5. Terms and Conditions: make sure you understand your terms of reference completely, and that you know where your responsibilities start and finish. Overstep these bounds and you could be in trouble.

Working as a locum veterinary nurse offers you a great deal of latitude in where you work and the type of veterinary nursing you carry out. You can use locum VN jobs to get experience or to specialize in a specific role in nursing. Whatever your objective, make sure you fully understand the nature of the work you contract to carry out, and that you have made proper arrangements for those aspects of employment that once were done for you, namely tax and insurance.


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