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Vet Kate Hornby at the Grove Veterinary Centre in Barrow-in-Furness.

Vet Kate Hornby at the Grove Veterinary Centre in Barrow-in-Furness.

Q MY daughter is just starting her GCSEs and is thinking about becoming a veterinary nurse. What does the training involve and what GCSEs does she need?

A Veterinary nursing is the supportive care of animals receiving treatment within a veterinary practice. A veterinary nurse works as a member of the veterinary team, providing expert nursing care for sick animals.

Veterinary nurses also play a significant role in educating owners on maintaining the health of their pets. They carry out technical work and are skilled in undertaking a range of diagnostic tests, medical treatments, consultations and minor surgical procedures, under veterinary direction.

Veterinary nursing offers rewarding career opportunities for people interested in animal health and welfare. The demand for veterinary nurses is steadily increasing and employment prospects are excellent.

There are two routes to becoming a qualified veterinary nurse; either via vocational training or via a higher education qualification. Both routes lead to registration as a veterinary nurse.

If you are very practically-minded, and want to get “stuck in” to a job in a veterinary practice, vocational training is probably best for you. The Level Three Diploma in Veterinary Nursing is a vocational qualification designed to prepare veterinary nurses for professional registration on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Register of Veterinary Nurses.  The course would involve blocks of time spent at college alongside a job in a registered training practice. The diploma course normally lasts two years.

Veterinary nursing can also be done as a degree course. A degree course will take a little longer than a vocational qualification, usually three years, and is more academic, but you will still be required to undertake clinical placements in an approved training practice. A degree in veterinary nursing can lead to additional career opportunities, such as research, the pharmaceutical industry and teaching, in addition to work in clinical veterinary practice. I think the cost of university tuition and student loans needs to be taken into consideration when deciding whether the degree option is right for you as the cost of university education has soared and the veterinary profession still has relatively low salaries compared to similar roles within the human medical profession.

In order to become a veterinary nurse you need five GCSEs including English language, maths and science. Suitable work experience to demonstrate a keen interest in the profession is also necessary. This can include work experience in a veterinary practice, work in kennels, stables or farms. A veterinary nurse can start off on as little as £10,000, with salaries seeming to average at around £20,000 after several years’ experience.

I hope this helps. For further information, including more information on the application process, you can look at the RCVS website.

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