Veterinary nurse training:
What is veterinary nursing?
A Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) is a member of the veterinary team, caring for sick and injured pets.
It is a rewarding career, in which you will be responsible for the welfare of patients, assisting veterinary surgeons and supporting and educating owners to help them to care for their pets. RVNs carry out technical work and develop skills in a range of diagnostic tests, medical treatments and minor surgical procedures, under veterinary direction. It is a highly skilled role, and individuals can pursue specialisms and post-graduate qualifications as they become more experienced
Which pets do vet nurses care for?
Students will train together on veterinary nursing courses, completing the same core units, before having the opportunity to specialise by species later on in the course, to enable them to work in either small animal, equine or mixed practices.
Small animal nurses work mainly with cats and dogs but will also learn to care for smaller pets, such as guinea pigs and hamsters, and sometimes more exotic animals, such as snakes and tortoises.
Equine nurses mainly work with horses, and nurses in mixed practice work with farm animals and horses, as well as pets.
Entry to training as a veterinary nurse
There a range of training options for student nurses, but all have to be approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). You will need to meet minimum entry requirements, which will be set by the awarding organisation or institution for your qualification, who you can contact for more information
Level 3 diplomas are offered on either full time or as an apprenticeship alongside a job in veterinary practice. Upon successful completion of the qualification, you will be able to apply to register with the RCVS.
Full time students will split their time between the classroom and placements, both paid and unpaid, in practices, organised by your college.
Apprentices will need to secure a job at an RCVS-approved training practice, from where they will then attend college.
Training takes between two and three years, much of which will be spent gaining clinical experience in practice. You will be working under the supervision of qualified veterinary nurses and veterinary surgeons, learning how to provide nursing care and treatments in a range of different situations.
Assessment is taken throughout the course via exams and assignments, and private study is required
Work experience and placements for veterinary nursing students
Veterinary nursing is a great career, and many people begin in the vocation after previously enjoying careers in different sectors and retraining. It can be useful to get a foot in the door at a practice by working in a role such as a receptionist or kennel assistant to build some experience in the industry, to help you to secure a student placement.
Gaining work experience or a placement is very competitive, demand often outweighs availability, and you need to stand out from the crowd. But there are some things you can do to help:
- Get as much animal handling experience as possible. Stables, kennels, pet shops, dog training groups, catteries, rescue centres and private zoos all provide invaluable experience.
- Free courses are available through animal charities and vet schools online. Remember to check they are accredited by a well-known educational organisation or the RCVS. Never pay for any online course that is not accredited.
- Stay up to date with what is going on in the industry and stay aware of all vacancies that come onto the market.
- Make sure that your CV is as good as it can be – there are many online tools to help with this. It can be a good idea to visit a local practice to ask for advice on what they are looking for when they read a CV.
- Go to open days at colleges and universities that provide RVN training, and speak to as many people as possible while you’re there – you never know what may come up.
Universities will each have their own entry requirements, and all applications need to be entered via UCAS.
Training takes three to four years, and often include additional subjects, such as practice administration or farm animal care. Much like full time college courses, your degree will include practical training in approved training practices alongside academic studies.
What’s best for me?
All of the above options will lead to you becoming a fully qualified RVN, and the route you take very much comes down to personal preference. If you want to be a part of a practice team straight away, vocational training could be the best route for you, while also ensuring you have a salary while you study. Degrees take longer, but can lead to further career opportunities further down the line.
Qualifying as a veterinary nurse
Once you have successfully completed your qualification and provided evidence of your training, you will be eligible to join the Register of Veterinary Nurses.
On entering the register, you will be awarded a RCVS Certificate in Veterinary Nursing. Your entry to the register entitles you, by law, to practise as a veterinary nurse under veterinary direction
For further information on becoming a veterinary nurse, contact:
RCVS Veterinary Nursing Careers
Tel 020 7202 0788
Other useful contacts
The British Veterinary Nursing Association
Tel: 01279 408644
The Sector Skills Council for the environmental and land-based sector
Tel: 0845 707 8007
Veterinary industry websites
- British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA)
- Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)
- British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA)
- British Veterinary Association (BVA)
Veterinary nurse careers and contacts information courtesy of the BVNA and RCVS.
Veterinary nurse jobs at Pennard Vets
We’re always on the look out for outstanding and caring vet nurses. If you would like to become part of our team of employee owners, please get in touch.
Our team benefit from personality profiling which helps to channel their efforts so they get the most satisfaction from their role.
Other veterinary jobs
Interested in training as a veterinary surgeon? Read our advice on how to do just that.