Veterinary nurses assist veterinarians in the management and care of a variety of animals. They also assist with day-to-day tasks including cleaning, animal interaction and liaising with the animals' owners. To become a veterinary nurse, you can complete certain training courses and qualifications. In this article, we discuss how to become a veterinary nurse, plus answer some commonly asked questions regarding the role.
Related reading: How To Become a Veterinarian
How to become a veterinary nurse
There are two distinct routes you can take to become a veterinary nurse. You can discover the steps below:
1. Have a passion for helping animals
Working as a veterinary nurse requires compassion for animals. Having a love of animals and feeling passionate about helping them can be helpful in this line of work. The work involves a lot of animal handling. Some of the animals you see may be sick and require extra care.
2. Gain some experience
Before you begin studying, it may be worthwhile to get some work experience. This can help you to decide if being a veterinary nurse is the right career choice for you. Experience can also be a positive addition to your resume. Some veterinary clinics require employees to have some work experience, so gaining experience can help you compete with other candidates for jobs. You may also make some useful contacts in the veterinary world during work experience which can help you when it's time for your job search.
3. Get qualified
To become a veterinary nurse, you need to obtain a Certificate 4 in Veterinary Nursing. TAFE and other registered training organisations offer this qualification. It's the minimum requirement to become a veterinary nurse. There may be certain pre-requisite requirements to gain entry into the course. Each organisation is different, so check with yours directly.
The next step, if you wish to further your knowledge and skills, is a Diploma of Veterinary Nursing. This diploma teaches you specific skills. It covers general practice, emergency care, dentistry and surgery. Choosing to take this route may increase your chances of employment. Some employers may view this qualification favourably.
An alternative option to studying is to take up an apprenticeship. It takes about 24 months to complete. After you complete an apprenticeship, you receive a formal qualification in veterinary nursing. As an apprentice, you enter into a formal training contract with your employer and spend time learning practical skills on the job.
You can start an apprenticeship while still at school. To do this, you need to speak to your Vocational Education and Training (VET) coordinator. You can apply for an apprenticeship as a school leaver and a mature age student too. It can be a good opportunity to learn on the job and get paid while doing it.
What does a veterinary nurse do?
Veterinary nurses perform a range of different tasks. From assisting the veterinarian with surgery to client education, every day is different. Here are some of the duties you can expect a veterinary nurse to do:
- Assisting veterinarians in surgery
- Taking samples to send for laboratory analysis
- Performing dental procedures, such as cleaning a dog's teeth
- Preparing surgical equipment
- Preparing an animal for surgery
- Cleaning equipment
- Speaking with pet owners about aftercare, diet and exercise
- Conducting puppy training programs
- Giving medicine to animals
- Taking X-rays of animals
- Feeding animals
- Exercising animals
- Cleaning animals and their kennels
- Bandaging animals
- Keeping medical records
- Helping out with front of house duties
- Holding and caring for the animals before, during and after surgery
- Speaking to pet owners as they come in about the condition of their animal
- Assisting in animal research centres
- Assisting on regional farms
What skills does a veterinary nurse need?
Being a veterinary nurse can be a varied job and you can work in a range of locations. Each day may see you performing different tasks. Here are some of the skills that contribute to a successful veterinary nurse:
One of the most important skills for a veterinary nurse to have is good communication. They need to be able to speak clearly to the veterinarian on duty whilst in surgery. They also need to communicate clearly with pet owners about their animal's condition and treatment plan. Some owners may be distressed, so extra care and clear communication is important for them to understand the situation. Before leaving a veterinary practice, the owner requires clear instructions about the aftercare of their pet.
Related reading: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples
Another important skill for a veterinary nurse is the ability to work well in a team. A veterinary clinic can have a lot of staff. Teamwork is essential to work together to form a good environment for the animals. The overall goal is to help animals, and a team that shares this goal can work together effectively.
Related reading: 6 Qualities That Make a Great Team Player
A key skill or attribute to have as a veterinary nurse is compassion. Some of the animals in care may be very ill and require intensive care. Compassion allows the animals to feel safe and cared for. It is also important to show compassion to the owner of the animal. Empathy and compassion towards pet owners in challenging instances can be very helpful and reassuring.
Veterinary nurses may work long hours on their feet. Complicated surgeries can last many hours and require a lot of physical stamina. This role can also consist of spending a lot of time picking up and holding animals, which requires strength.
Veterinary nurses need to have a good understanding of animal anatomy. This is an important skill to have when it comes to surgery and explaining a condition to an owner. You can learn about animal anatomy during your veterinary nurse training.
A good grasp of patient care is important. Patient care is making sure your patient (animal in this case) is as comfortable as possible. Patient care includes feeding the patient, exercising the patient (if needed) and comforting them. When the animal feels calm and reassured, it can help the owner to feel calm and reassured too.
Frequently asked questions
Below are some answers to the most commonly asked questions on how to become a veterinary nurse:
What qualifications do you need to become a veterinary nurse?
There are two different pathways to take when becoming a veterinary nurse. You can undertake an apprenticeship that gives you a formal qualification in veterinary nursing. Or, you can gain a Certificate 4 in veterinary nursing from a registered training organisation. This is the minimum requirement of a veterinary nurse. You can do further studies if you wish to improve your knowledge and skills.
How many years does it take to become a veterinary nurse?
An apprenticeship usually takes around two years to complete. A Certificate 4 takes one year to complete. However, a Certificate 4 requires some prerequisites that vary depending on the organisation. The prerequisites may take up to a year to complete. With whatever route you choose, it can take about two years to become a veterinary nurse.
How much do veterinary nurses get paid?
How much you are paid as a veterinary nurse can depend on your place of work. Veterinary nurses can work in a variety of places, including clinics, research centres and animal hospitals. Your salary can also depend on how much experience and what qualifications you have. The national average annual salary for a veterinary nurse is $61,447.
What are the working conditions like for veterinary nurses?
Veterinary nurses usually work in clinics, surgeries and consulting rooms. There is a team of workers including veterinarians, veterinary technicians and other nurses. As a veterinary nurse, you may work long hours that include weekend work. Some clinics may require you to stay overnight with the animals.
Do veterinary nurses perform surgical procedures?
Veterinary nurses usually perform a wide range of tasks including technical work. This may include running tests for diagnostics, carrying out medical treatments and can also involve minor surgical processes. However, as a veterinary nurse, all your technical work, including that of surgical nature, is always under veterinary supervision and direction.
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