Job descriptions and industry overviews

Veterinary nurse: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:40

Veterinary nurses provide treatment for and take care of sick or injured domestic, farm and zoo animals.

animal to represent veterinary nurse

What does a veterinary nurse do? Salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Skills

Veterinary nurses care for animals that are being treated in a veterinary practice. They also help to educate owners on how best to look after their pets, and help to keep vets’ practices running smoothly.

Typical duties include:

  • administering drugs, anaesthetics and injections
  • preparing animals for surgery
  • monitoring animals during and after operations
  • maintaining, sterilising and laying out surgical equipment
  • cleaning up after surgery
  • undertaking diagnostic tests
  • preparing and sending off laboratory samples
  • taking x-rays
  • caring for, exercising and grooming animal in-patients
  • giving advice to owners about caring for and breeding animals
  • running clinics on topics such as puppy training
  • keeping records on patients
  • managing other nurses and providing support
  • writing and filing reports.

Like those in other health-related roles, veterinary nurses may need to work unsociable hours to ensure that patients receive care when they need it.

Graduate salaries

According to Jobted, veterinary nurse salaries tend to start at around £17,000. This can increase with experience (particularly if you choose to specialise – for example by becoming an equine veterinary nurse) to around £22,000 and higher in more senior positions – a head veterinary nurse, for instance.

Typical employers of veterinary nurses

  • Private veterinary practices.
  • Animal centres and hospitals.
  • Zoos and wildlife parks.
  • Government organisations.
  • Animal welfare organisations and charities, such as the RSPCA.
  • Pharmaceuticals manufacturers.

Vacancies are advertised by college and university careers services, and by individual vets’ practices and animal welfare organisations. You’ll also find them on specialist jobs boards.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into a veterinary nursing career for both university graduates and school leavers.

Graduates will need a degree in veterinary nursing, accredited by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). For the entry onto the course, you’re likely to need a minimum of three A levels (preferably including biology at grade B) in England, or four Highers including a literary subject and a science in Scotland.

You’ll also need work experience in a veterinary environment before you can apply for a veterinary nursing degree.

School leavers will need a level three diploma in veterinary nursing – also accredited by the RCVS. Students in England need five GCSEs at grades A*–C (9–4) to join this course, while Scottish students will need five subjects at National 5 or Higher/Advance Higher at A, B or C (including maths, English and a science). Before you apply, you’ll need to have completed a work placements in a veterinary environment.

School leavers can also take an apprenticeship in veterinary nursing. This involves studying on day release while working in an animal-related role. Find out more about apprenticeships.

Key skills for veterinary nurses

  • Excellent communication skills, including the ability to work with people from all sections of the community.
  • Adaptability.
  • Manual dexterity.
  • The ability to multitask.
  • Communication skills.
  • Organisational skills.
  • Administrative skills.

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