In UK there is a great misconception about qualified veterinary nurses and student veterinary nurse’s that does tend to grate on us. On average it is thought we cuddle animals all day and clean up after them. I have put up some of the going on to clear up the misconception but decided to put up a bit more information on exams, wages and life.
Well we do a lot of cleaning up but as to cuddling animals all day. We do have contact with them but “spending the day cuddling animals” is not on the cards if you want to care for them properly.
Inpatients need temperatures, pulses, respirations checked, kennel’s cleaned, body functions monitored, medications given, walked or physiotherapy carried out.
Surgical interventions to assist with or carry out, veterinary nurses often do radiography, some qualified and vn's are able to do basic surgery so long as no body cavity is entered. Often nurses are in charge of wound care, the vets sorting medication but the nurses doing the cleaning and dressing, vets are generally useless at bandaging.
VN’s do dental scaling but unless the tooth is hanging out are not permitted to extract.
Veterinary nurses are the anaesthetists for the vet and at times scrub in as assistants usually to hold pull or do whatever is required by the vet. We carry out lab work, and basic vein puncture for various tests or to place iv catheters.
If we are on nurse clinics that means wound checks and redresses, discharges, post op checks, pre op admits, dental, diabetic, renal, geriatric, general animal care for many species, diet clinics, anal gland express, nail clips on and on.
Add to that in smaller veterinary practices we are also cleaners and receptionists. Being a qualified or student vn is not a role to be taken lightly.
For this the average wage for a qualified veterinary nurse is £12-16k/year. Some referral practices offer up to about £20k but that is very rare.
Nights and weekends are often worked and only tiny retainers paid. One practice l have heard of pays their nurses £1.50/night to be on call, that is only if work is carried out. They have to live in over the practice to check patients overnight and be available for the vets if called to assist and are expected to work a full day after a night shift. The night shift covers a full week. This is not unusual in the veterinary world, hence the value of emergency clinics staff are dedicated to that shift not exhausted. Not counting the fact that someone is observing the animals full time not popping down every so often.
There are several routes to becoming a qualified veterinary nurse the newest is the degree route via a university. There is also EVN (Equine Veterinary Nurse) qualifications for those who want to specialise in horses.
The standard EVN and VN course is in house training with either day or block release to a collage. The certificate is a bog standard NVQ 2 and 3 which is quite frankly a joke and a very sore point with l think all of us.
Veterinary nursing is the ONLY NVQ that is only passed based on written and practical exams. Work and learning far exceeds what is involved in any other NVQ exams.
Below is a summary of the present syllabus there are also sections on dealing with exotics in all the sections below not just cats and dogs but rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, birds etc.
Year one is written exams 2 papers in the morning and 2 in the afternoon over a day covering the year’s course:
Relationships and accountability in veterinary nursing practice
Health and Safety in veterinary nursing practice
Applied functional anatomy
Maintaining animal health
Essential veterinary nursing skills
Nursing support in the provision of veterinary services
Year two is a day of written exams 2 papers in the morning and 2 in the afternoon and a further half day of practical exams.
Application of veterinary nursing care
Practice and principles of diagnostics
Pharmacology and pharmacy support
Surgical theatre practice
If in more than 2 of practicals the sets are failed then a total re-sit is required. If you fail less then you can re-sit the failed practices. Failed written exams mean resitting the failed papers. Only 3 re-sits are allowed and then special dispensation is required.
We also have a portfolio of cases to be produced. On all areas, surgical, medical, behavioural, exotics, h and s, client care etc. I was unlucky enough to be in the first year of the new portfolio setup back in ‘98 time. Before that it was a little green book that got sigend every so often… bliss! And l had to go and miss it.
Since we did the first portfolio they have cut the portfolio by about 40% as apparently it was to complex and to much work when working full time, we managed it!
One of the huge points of anger is that we go through all that yet anyone stacking shelves in the supermarket one day can go and do any of those jobs and with only a brief update from someone in the practice and they and vets call them veterinary nurses.
In other words your pet goes in for even a routine operation and the person doing the anaesthetic can be first day on the job.
The "powers that be" say that the vet is in charge and keeping an eye on things, but as the vet is nose deep inside the pet they are not monitoring the patient.
All the work we do any untrained person is allowed to do and again call themselves a veterinary nurse. No matter what information they are giving out no one has monitored it to know if it is right or not.
This is all permitted as it is said there is not enough qualified vet nurses, but due to all to often appalling wages and often bad treatment from employers many do not stay long and there is a high turnover. Those that are good employers generally keep their staff for years.
You should always check who will be doing your pets anaesthesia and care or gives you advice. Are they fully qualified and listed or just auxiliaries the practice or they call “veterinary nurses”. These are often very experienced people but all too many are not, more importantly though they have no formal training.
There is a move to make qualified veterinary nurses into registered RVN. The idea is that you are then responsible for your mistakes, as a qualified listed vn the vet carries the can.
If someone qualified after 2003 then it is automatic and no choice to get an r. Those of use who qualified before 2003 have a choice of listed or rvn. I have told rcvs that l have no intention of becoming an rvn because l do not trust a vet not to try and shaft me over his mistakes and l know that l will be a scapegoat and do not believe l will get a fair hearing. Many vets are great and l trust them implicitly, but I had a vet try and shaft me several years ago hence my distrust after being burned once.
A registered vn is also meant to have a min of 45hrs CPD over 3 years. Some practices pay towards this many do not and for us locums we pay our own. A day’s cpd averages £150+ so on our wages this is not that simple. There is some cheaper evening or now as rare as hens teeth free cpd.