How to become a Veterinary Nurse. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Veterinary Nurse do?
As a veterinary nurse, you would support veterinary surgeons (vets) by providing nursing care for sick and injured animals.
Your nursing duties would include:
- holding animals and keeping them calm during treatment
- giving injections and drugs (under direction of the vet)
- collecting blood, urine and other samples and carrying out in-house lab work
- sterilising instruments
- taking x-rays
- preparing animals for operations
- assisting during operations by handing instruments and maintaining levels of anaesthetic
- carrying out minor procedures such as suture removal.
You would often have other responsibilities, including:
- taking care of in-patients (feeding, cleaning quarters, grooming and exercising)
- conducting clinics for suture removal, post-operation checks and second vaccinations
- advising owners about the care of their animals.
You could also have administrative and reception duties.
You would work between 35 and 40 hours a week, often with evening, weekend and on-call duties.
Your employer would usually provide a uniform and protective clothing.
How much does a Veterinary Nurse earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Veterinary nurses can earn between £16,000 and £24,000 a year, depending on experience.
- Senior veterinary nurses can earn around £27,000.
Accommodation may be provided.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You can qualify as a veterinary nurse in either of the following two ways:
- work-based training
- higher education.
Both lead to Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) registration as a veterinary nurse.
To begin work-based training you must be employed at a veterinary practice which is approved by RCVS – visit the RCVS website for details of approved practices.
- Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons – details of approved practices.
You would need:
- five GCSEs at grade C or above including English, maths and two science subjects, or equivalent qualifications, or
- the ABC Level 2 Certificate for Animal Nursing Assistants.
In some areas you can complete the City & Guilds/NPTC National Certificate for Veterinary Care Assistants as an alternative to the ABC Animal Nursing Assistant qualification.
It could be an advantage when looking for work as a trainee or assistant if you have relevant experience – for example, volunteering with a local vet, or in other kinds of work with animals, such as local kennels or RSPCA centres.
You can make your details available to veterinary practices with vacancies by joining the British Veterinary Nursing Association Employment Register. See the BVNA website for details.
- British Veterinary Nursing Association
During your training you would work under the supervision of qualified staff. You would also attend college on day- or block-release and do private study.
Your training would take at least two years, with exams at the end of each year. You would complete the Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing, which replaced NVQ levels 2 and 3 in Veterinary Nursing in August 2010.
You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. To find out more about Apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website.
As an alternative to work-based training, you can complete a RCVS-approved veterinary nursing degree or foundation degree, which includes work experience placements, and combines the RCVS-approved training with the academic qualification. This will take longer than work-based training, but could give you more career opportunities, such as research or teaching.
To get onto a higher education course you would usually need:
- at least two A levels or equivalent qualifications, preferably in chemistry and biology, and
- five GCSEs (A-C) including English language, maths and two sciences.
You should check with individual colleges and universities for their exact requirements – see the RCVS website for a list.
- Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons – approved courses
Training and Development
Once you are qualified and experienced, you can add to your skills and knowledge by doing short courses or further qualifications, including:
- RCVS Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nursing
- BVNA Pharmacy Management for Veterinary Nurses
- BVNA Certificate in Dentistry.
You could develop your career prospects by taking higher qualifications such as HND, foundation degree or degree courses.
Skills and Knowledge
- concern for animals without being too sentimental
- calmness and confidence when handling animals
- a tactful and sympathetic approach with upset or nervous owners
- an interest in science, particularly biology
- willingness to carry out messy or unpleasant tasks
- the ability to communicate well with owners and colleagues
- administrative and IT skills.
Many veterinary nurses are employed in general veterinary practices, but you could also find work in research establishments, laboratories, universities, colleges, zoological/wildlife parks, charities, pharmaceutical companies and breeding/boarding kennels.
With experience, you may be able to take on more responsibility, such as practice management, supervising staff or training support staff. You could also complete further study to become a lecturer or researcher.