The month of May celebrates National Veterinary Nurse Month, which aims to increase awareness of the importance of the Veterinary Nursing profession in the provision of responsible pet care. This prompts the questions; what does a Veterinary Nurse do, what training is required to become a Veterinary Nurse, and what is the difference between the Veterinary Nurse and a Vet, or Veterinary Surgeon? I have found through working in practice that many members of the public would not be able to answer these questions. In short, the Veterinary Nurse performs a variety of roles within the practice, which I will cover in detail below, and a qualified Veterinary Nurse will have completed 2-4 years of training at either college or university. The Veterinary Surgeon is responsible for the medical and surgical treatment of animals, they diagnose illnesses, prescribe medicines and perform surgery, which requires 4-6 years of training at university. As I define the duties of a Veterinary Nurse, the differences between the roles of a Veterinary Nurse and Veterinary Surgeon should become clearer.
As a Veterinary Nurse we have a very diverse and interesting career which often means we have different responsibilities each day! We conduct nurses clinics which include; admitting patients to the practice; discharging them back home following operations or hospitalisation; weight clinics; post-operative check-ups; clip claws; flea and worm consults; anal gland emptying; six month pet health checks if you are on our Pet Health Plan; and many more!
As nurses we take blood samples from patients, and then can also run the blood tests in-house, as well as running in-house urine tests. We also place intravenous catheters in hospitalised patients, as well as patients coming in for operations. We monitor and care for in-patients throughout the day and administer medication, administer fluid therapy and even hand feed patients when needed! We can administer medications by injection, as well as orally and topically.
When a patient is required to be operated on a Veterinary Nurse will prepare them, clipping and scrubbing the site of incision. During the procedure a Veterinary Nurse will monitor the patient’s vitals throughout the entire duration of the general anaesthetic. It is part of a nurse’s responsibility to keep the patient alive during an operation! Following the operation, we monitor the patients making sure they have recovered, eaten, been outside, and then later in the day prepare them to go home. Veterinary Nurses are able to scrub into operations to assist the Veterinary Surgeon and perform minor surgical procedures, whilst under Veterinary Surgeon direction. We are also fully trained on positioning the animal for X-rays, setting the correct exposure factors and taking radiographs.
Veterinary Nurses cannot prescribe medication, however much like a pharmacist we are able to dispense medication. The Veterinary Nurse also plays a large role in ensuring the practice is clean and tidy, keeping the theatres and veterinary equipment sterile to maintain our practice’s high standards.
I find my work as a Veterinary Nurse very rewarding, particularly caring for ill patients and then seeing them return home well again.
There are a number of ways to become a Veterinary Nurse, through either vocational or higher education routes and training can take between 2 and 4 years to complete. Once qualified, Veterinary Nurses must enter a national register held by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and are required to undertake continuing professional development each year to learn new skills and keep up to date with developments in veterinary medicine. Registered Veterinary nurses can be identified by a red badge worn on the lapel of their uniform. If you are interested in pursuing a career in Veterinary Nursing, please take a look at the work experience section of our website, we often provide placements for students.
Laura Puddefoot RVN