Skip to content

British Veterinary Nursing Association

The BVNA exist to promote animal health and welfare through the ongoing development of professional excellence in veterinary nursing.

Find out more about a career in Veterinary Nursing.

There is no typical day for a veterinary nurse and duties are very dependent on the veterinary practice they work for. Whilst there is a lot of joy in the job, there are often times of moral dilemmas and sadness. It is essential that you are resilient and able to adapt to the different aspects of the job. Veterinary nurses will often be called upon to support clients during difficult times, deliver bad news and to aid the veterinary surgeon in euthanasia. 

Depending on the type of practice you work for, you may be managing the treatments of inpatients, preparing theatre for surgical procedures and monitoring anaesthesia. Some practices run nurse clinics where the nurse manages consultations with clients and their pets. Biosecurity and practice hygiene are critical in preventing the spread of disease to other patients, members of staff and clients; so cleaning is a really important part of the role. 

Veterinary nurses are an integral part of the veterinary practice team so team working and communication skills are key to a successful career. Veterinary nurses are often the first port of call for clients, forming strong bonds with them to ensure improved animal health and welfare.

A practice’s veterinary team is often supported by other individuals with an interest in animal care. You can read more about their roles below.

Veterinary Receptionist

In addition to the veterinary nurse or practice manager a veterinary receptionist is part of the essential practice staff team. A veterinary receptionist is often the first person a new or existing client talks to on the telephone or sees when they visit their veterinary practice. Sometimes they need information or reassurance that their pet will receive the best care and attention. 

The veterinary receptionist is therefore instrumental in creating the first impression in relation to the veterinary practice. In addition to dealing with clients, veterinary receptionists can play a greater part of the practice team by dealing with financial aspects i.e. invoices, payments etc, client records, and can assist the whole practice team and be a valuable team member. Sometimes no training is required, and the veterinary practice provides in-house training however if somebody wanted to undergo external training there are several courses that could apply.

Animal Nursing Assistant/Veterinary Care Assistant

ANAs and VCAs are important members of the veterinary care team. They are involved with the husbandry and general care of patients and work under the direction of vets and veterinary nurses to ensure the well-being of the patients. ANA and VCA training can be undertaken at a number of colleges. Many of these colleges will also provide full veterinary nurse training.

Once you have received your registerable qualification and have completed the required training and placement hours, you will be eligible to register as a newly-qualified veterinary nurse.

You must also make a disclosure of matter relevant to good character.

Registration forms are sent directly to students and should be submitted to the RCVS with the appropriate registration fee. 

Once your registration application has been processed, you will receive your Certificate of Registration and your Veterinary Nurse Badge. 

It will then be your responsibility to ensure that your entry on the Register of Veterinary Nurses is kept up-to-date by informing the RCVS immediately of any change of name, address, or employment. 

There is a registration fee when you first apply and then each year you must sign a declaration and pay a retention fee to remain on the register. To remain on the register, you must also complete 15 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) each year. 

You cannot practice as a veterinary nurse if you are not on the register.

Veterinary nurse training is conducted through colleges and universities that offer qualifications approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and their linked veterinary practices. 

There are two routes for training as a veterinary nurse either in Further Education with the level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing or Higher Education with either an FdSc or BSc degree programme. There is also the option of either training with small animals or horses.

Further Eductation (FE)

The Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing is a vocational qualification. This approach is often completed whilst you are employed by a veterinary training practice and suits practically minded people.

Higher Education (HE)

You can complete a degree course where you are in full time education and attend placement in veterinary practices. This can take between three and four years depending on the type of course you choose. 

You will need to meet minimum entry requirements for the university and you will need to apply via UCAS.

Once qualified, veterinary nurses will find a rewarding career ahead of them. 

You may choose to develop an interest in different aspects of animal health, such as behaviour, alternative therapy or they may choose to further develop their skills by studying one of a number of post qualification courses that are available. 

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is mandatory for RVNs with 15 hours CPD being required by the RCVS per year. 

RVNs may choose to embark on a career in nursing and work in large veterinary hospitals, universities or specialist referral centres. They may also take on a veterinary practice management role or become a pharmaceutical company representative. 

Many RVNs also elect to follow a career in education and become college tutors and lecturers teaching the next generation of veterinary nurses.

It is a good idea to shadow a veterinary nurse to see what they do on a day to day basis. This can be very challenging as there is a high demand for work experience. Here are some hints and tips of how gain work experience:

  • Get as much animal handling experience as possible in animal-based businesses. Give detail of your experience in your CV including what you learned and enjoyed.
  • Provide a well written CV to a practice, however it is best to go in person, ask the name of the Head VN to ensure they receive it.
  • Explore the internet for free courses. Many animal charities and Vet Schools put short distance learning courses online. Remember to check these are accredited by a well-known educational organisation or the RCVS; never pay for any online course that is not accredited.
  • Go into practices with your CV so they can put a face to a name. Remember that they get lots of applications for experience, be creative and make you application stand out.
  • Contact them regularly (but not too often) to ask if you can help out. Volunteer to clean in the evenings or at weekends; get your foot in the door. Once they know you are reliable and proactive, they may offer you some nursing experience. You cannot practice as a veterinary nurse if you are not on the register.

Get in touch if you'd like to know more: