Veterinary Nurse Training
Meeting the Rising Demand for Qualified Veterinary Nurses
Veterinary nurse training is not getting any easier in spite of the rising demand for qualified veterinary nurses in the UK. And neither should it be, because a rise in demand to meet a shortage should not infer a drop in standards to enable more qualified people to be available for what is a very important, difficult and responsible position within the veterinary field.

Those nurses qualifying today can be assured that they equally qualified with those who went through training 20 years ago, and that their efforts are just as equally recognized and respected. In saying that, what are the training requirements for an aspiring veterinary nurse wishing to enter the profession today, and perhaps even progress further in that profession? The qualifications required can be confusing, and you must have practice training in an Approved Training Practice (TP) arranged by yourself.

Here are some aspects of veterinary nurse training and qualifications that might help you:

Function of a Veterinary Nurse
The function of a veterinary nurse is to work alongside veterinary surgeons in public or private veterinary practices, and to help treat a wide variety of animals - in fact all animals that are not human! Some tasks will be of a specialist nature requiring special training, such as undertaking certain types of minor surgery, radiography and certain diagnostic tests and treatments. One of the advances being made in veterinary nursing today involves the adoption of alternative therapies and treatments and also advanced medical and diagnostic procedures.

The need for training appears to outstrip the need for veterinary nurses, and it is apparent that retention rates in the profession are low. There is also a trend for higher qualifications so that veterinary nurses can carry out work previously the domain of veterinary surgeons. This trend is reflected in the greater focus of students on a Higher National Diploma (HND) or even a BSc degree in veterinary nursing that brings them ever closer to the qualification requirements for veterinary surgeons.

Qualification Requirements
So what qualifications are currently needed for veterinary nurse training, and is it really so different to 20 years ago? What is certain is that the demand for nurses will increase over the next 10 years, so what do you have to do to qualify as a veterinary nurse?

Veterinary Nurse Training []usually last around two years, and can be carried out by taking a BSc degree course in veterinary nursing at a veterinary college, or by being employed and trained in a 'training practice' approved by the RCVS. For the latter, 5 GCSEs at minimum Grade C are required in specific subjects (English Language, Mathematics and a science subject) or you must have passed the Animal Nursing Assistant qualification and Key Skills Level 2 in Application of Number and Communication. Suitable levels of Scottish qualifications (S/NVQ, Standard Grades and Highers) are also acceptable.

If you are aged over 21 and have no qualifications, you can also apply but must display acceptably high standards of ability. This is one route for volunteers or those that have been employed by a veterinary practice as a helper and have shown a particular aptitude for the job. Some students feel it unfair, but sometimes there are those that do have such an aptitude that did not have the opportunity of formal training.

Check With the RCVS
A full list of acceptable qualifications is available from the RCVS. Although A BSc degree would appear a good route to take since you don't have to have a job when studying and you have a degree at the end of it, you will be saddled with a student debt unless you have rich parents, practical training is very poor and placements are a real problem because vets prefer practice-trained nurses with practical experience. Many leave the profession before obtaining practice placements because of that and contribute significantly to the high drop-out rate.

Whatever route you take to become a veterinary nurse, you must become a member of the RCVS and the above are among the registration qualifications acceptable to this professional body. To practice as a vet nurse in the UK, you can also have joined the RCVS through your qualifications and experience in other countries approved by the College. Registration can be as either an equine or a small animal veterinary nurse.

Training Income
Although you will be employed by a veterinary practice during your training, your income will not be high. The same is true after qualification due to the influx of nurses from other EU countries prepared to work for lower income. However, you can offset this by gaining additional qualifications such as the Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nursing - medical or surgical. This will enable you to enter a higher income bracket.

While the demand for veterinary nurses is rising in the UK, so too is the number of qualified nurses so the way forward is additional qualifications and to excel in the work that you do - that too will be noticed and attract the better paying practices.

Becoming a veterinary nurse is one of those jobs that will likely always have vacancies, and it has generally been relatively easy for nurses to find temporary locum work that they can take when they feel the need to work or are finding it difficult to find suitable permanent positions. Locum work often comes with accommodation and a practice vehicle provided.

Veterinary nursing is a very satisfying career and you should always be sure of work. The rising demand for qualified veterinary nurses is a good indicator of things to come for nurses currently starting training, and not many jobs have the same security of employment.


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