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 and 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 £28,000 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.
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 or completion of the Level 2 Diploma.
You can take a degree in Veterinary Nursing at SRUC. Entry requirements are 4 Highers at BBBB including one from Biology (or Human Biology), Chemistry or Physics and an English based subject, plus National 5 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.
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 to sleep.
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.