Veterinary Nursing as a Career
If you are thinking of veterinary nursing as a career, you are thinking of a very rewarding one that offers almost unlimited possibilities for the future. Some veterinary nurses undertake further training to specialize in areas such as equine veterinary work, often working with top racehorses and show-jumpers after they have qualified. Others go on to become practice managers and a few even to decide to qualify as veterinary surgeons. It is a worthwhile career with wonderful opportunities worldwide.

Veterinary Nursing Duties
We shall first briefly describe the duties of veterinary nursing and then how you go about becoming a nurse. Fundamentally, veterinary nurses, or VNs from now on, help practice veterinary surgeons in their work. Under the supervision of a vet, you will carry out a range of medical treatments, diagnostic tests and minor surgical procedures, and will become involved in running clinics that educate animal owners in the basics of animal care, whether they are pets or working animals.

Some of the minor procedures are giving injections, stitches and dealing with matted hair. You could be working with a wide range of small animals, mainly domestic, and also farm animals such as cheep and cattle. Horses are a specialty that involves further training, although you might be involved in minor work with horses that does not require specific training in equine surgery.

Along with the good comes the bad, however, and you may also have to help treat some very seriously ill or fatally injured animals and compassionately put them down. You will also have faeces, blood and vomit to deal with, no different to medical nurses working in hospitals. You may sometimes need a strong stomach, although this comes with practice and familiarity so don't worry about it too much.

Becoming a Veterinary Nurse
You have two routes to becoming a veterinary nurse: the academic and the practical apprenticeship route. Both require qualifications: at least 5 GCEs at C level or better, or their equivalent in Scottish and overseas qualifications. In Scotland, this would be 3 Standard Grades at levels 1-3. If you have a couple of science passes among any of these, that that would be an advantage.

An academic qualification in veterinary nursing from a college or university will still require some practical work with a veterinary practice approved by the RCVS as a Training Practice, known is short as a TP. A graduate will receive a paid or non-paid placement, and undergo regular assessments in practical techniques.

If you go the non-academic route you must get a job with a TP and then apply to the BVNA (British Veterinary Nursing Association) for the training course. This course is grant-aided. If you find that impossible, then try to find work with an ordinary practice and improve your CV with a day release or part time Pre-Veterinary Training Course. With that plus your qualifications you will have a better chance of a TP accepting you for work. It also helps if you have done voluntary work with a local practice during your school holidays: perhaps that is a TP, which is even better.

You will be assigned a Training Practice veterinary surgeon to oversee you and train you in your 'apprenticeship', and you will undergo regular assessments and examination. If you do well you will receive an NVQ in and be able to register with the RCVS as a VN. The training takes a minimum of two years.

Finding Vet Nurse Employment
Once you are registered as a VN you are a qualified member of the practice. The practice might retain you, or might prefer you to find further employment so the practice can train another young person with aspirations of becoming a veterinary nurse.

The BVNA runs an employment register and you will find many regional and national veterinary employment agencies online that will help you find employment in your area. You could also ring up the veterinary surgeries in your Yellow Pages and ask if they have a vacancy, even if just part time to begin with. If you leave them your number they might call you back when a vacancy becomes available.

There are also frequent vacancies offered for British nurses overseas if you fancy travelling. These can also be found through the BVNA, or an internet search can also be very fruitful. You might also contact a national employment agency enquiring if they have any vacancies for home or overseas veterinary nursing vacancies [].

Apart from traditional veterinary surgeries, vacancies for vet nurses can arise in zoos, breeding kennels, laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, universities and animal parks, so don't narrow your search too much.

Prospects in Veterinary Nursing
After qualifying, you can continue your training to specialize in such fields as equine nursing, where you need four years experience with horses before taking the course. You can also study for the Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nursing (Surgical) that enables you to carry out specific surgical techniques. This is a two-year course with an examination at the end of it.

Some veterinary nurses become practice managers, or supervise and teach other trainee veterinary nursing staff. Some even start up their own practice, employing veterinary surgeons to carry out the surgical work. The limits to which you can take your career are limitless if you are prepared to work and study to maintain a progression of continuous improvement

Veterinary nursing is a very rewarding career with limitless opportunities for those with ambition. Continue your training once you qualify, and you will be creating a good future for yourself in a fabulous field of work.


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