Veterinary nurses (vet nurses) help veterinary surgeons (vets) treat and care for sick and injured animals. Although most vet nurses work mainly with small animals, in some cases they care for farm animals, horses or zoo animals.
You could be:
- holding animals and keeping them calm while the vet examines them
- preparing animals for operations and sterilising surgical instruments
- helping with operations or taking x-rays
- taking care of sick animals, and giving injections and drugs under the supervision of the vet
- helping deal with emergencies
- carrying out straightforward laboratory tests and preparing samples for outside laboratories
- giving advice to owners about looking after their animals
- checking stocks and ordering drugs
- answering phones and keeping records up to date.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
- where you work
- the size of company or organisation you work for
- the demand for the job.
Salaries for registered veterinary nurses are normally between £18,000 and £25,000 a year.
- Most work is inside, but you may have to work outside at times, especially when treating larger animals.
- It may be necessary to visit farms and zoos to treat animals.
- It can be dirty, noisy and smelly.
- There may be a risk of attack from nervous, scared or aggressive animals.
- Working hours may include weekends and evenings on a rota basis.
- You may sometimes be on call for emergencies.
- Part time work is common.
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- Entry can be very competitive. You would get in either through a trainee post or by studying for a qualification.
- To get a trainee post with a vet you usually need 5 subjects at National 5 including English, Maths and a science subject.
- Both Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) and North Highland College offer the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Veterinary Nursing Level 3 Diploma. For entry, you need 5 subjects at National 5, including English, Maths and a science subject.
- SRUC offers a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Veterinary Nursing. Entry is 3 Highers, including English and a science subject, plus 5 subjects at National 5 including English, Maths and a science subject.
- You can take a degree in Veterinary Nursing at Edinburgh Napier University. Entry requirements are 4 Highers at BBBB including one of biology, chemistry or physics and an English based subject, plus 3 subjects at National 5 including English, Maths and a science subject.
- At least 10 days work experience in a vet practice is desirable and necessary for some courses. For the degree course you require 4 weeks' work experience.
- You need to be fit as there is a lot of standing, lifting, bending and holding animals.
- You might need a tetanus vaccination.
You could work for a vet in private practice, an animal welfare society such as the PDSA (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals), a zoo or wildlife park, a research centre or a university veterinary school.
Predicted Employment in Scotland
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What Does it Take?
You need to be:
- calm and confident when handling animals
- patient and caring when dealing with animals and their owners
- able to talk to owners from a wide range of backgrounds
- well organised, practical and responsible
- able to deal with mess and the physical demands of the job
- able to work on your own as well as with other colleagues
- resilient, to deal with upsetting situations.
You should not be squeamish, as you will have to:
- treat injured animals
- clean wounds and give injections
- help with surgery
- clean up excrement, vomit and blood
- help to put some animals down.
- If you start work without a vet nursing qualification, you would train on the job, with part time study at college.
- You would work towards the RCVS Veterinary Nursing Level 3 Diploma, which would take up to three years to complete.
- Once you have qualified, either with the RCVS Diploma or a degree, you register with the RCVS as a newly-qualified veterinary nurse.
- After qualifying, you need to take short training courses to keep up to date with new developments through a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme.
- With experience you may become a senior or head vet nurse, or a practice manager.
- You may choose to specialise in a particular area of vet nursing, for example with horses.
- You may move into training, teaching and lecturing to vet nurse students.
- There may be opportunities to work with pharmaceutical companies on drug trials.
- There can be opportunities overseas for qualified vet nurses.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA)
Tel: 0800 917 2509
For opportunities in voluntary work. There are PDSA centres and contact points throughout the country. By telephoning the Enquiry Freephone, you can be put in touch with the PDSA locally.
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