Veterinary nurse: job description

Veterinary nurses assist veterinary surgeons in the diagnosis, treatment and care of sick or injured domestic, farm and zoo animals.

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You should be able to demonstrate a genuine interest in animal welfare and science (particularly biology).

What does a veterinary nurse do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key 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.

Responsibilities of the job include:

  • administering drugs, anaesthetics and injections
  • preparing animals for surgery
  • holding and monitoring animals during 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
  • keeping records
  • writing and filing reports

Typical employers of veterinary nurses

  • Private veterinary practices
  • Animal centres or hospitals
  • Zoos
  • Government organisations such as the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
  • Animal welfare organisations and charities such as the RSPCA, Blue Cross and PDSA
  • Pharmaceuticals manufacturers

Vacancies are advertised online and in newspapers and specialist publications such as Veterinary Record . Voluntary work may be available with larger veterinary practices, animal boarding centres or organisations such as the RSPCA, PDSA, Cats Protection and Blue Cross.

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, a minimum of two A levels ( preferably including biology and another science subject) or 240 UCAS points from two Scottish Advanced Highers or three Scottish Highers are required.

School leavers will need a level three diploma in veterinary nursing – also accredited by the RCVS – and must complete work placements at a veterinary practice that qualifies as an approved training centre. Five GCSEs at grades A*–C, or five Scottish Standards at grades one to three, are required. These must include English, maths and a science subject. A list of approved training providers and qualifications are available on the RCVS website.

Previous experience of working with animals, such as in a veterinary practice or an animal shelter, is advantageous.

Key skills for veterinary nurses

  • Caring
  • Responsible
  • Reliable
  • Good teamworking skills
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Administrative skills

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