What does a vet nurse actually DO?

This is a question we KEEP getting asked! But veterinary nurses are professionals in their own right, and are just as essential to the practice operating smoothly as any of the vets. For starters, let’s look at what they’re NOT…

A veterinary nurse ISN’T:

  • A trainee vet – we have veterinary students in sometimes, but veterinary nursing is an entirely separate profession.
  • A receptionist – receptionists have an essential role in the practice, but (while they may occasionally sit at the desk or answer the phone) a veterinary nurse’s role is much broader.
  • A cleaner – they can do a LOT more than just cleaning up messes (although they are excellent at that too…).
  • Always a girl – there are some excellent male nurses around (although we don’t have any right at the moment).

Are they really a profession?

Yes – since 2015, they have been regulated by the Veterinary Nursing Council of Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon, who are elected by nurses across the country. Just like vets, doctors or dentists the name of all Registered Veterinary Nurses (RVNs) are kept on a central Register, and if they are found guilty of professional misconduct they can be struck off, and prevented from practicing. If you want to know whether a nurse is Registered (and therefore permitted to practice), you can look them up on the RCVS website here.

How are they trained?

There are two routes to becoming a veterinary nurse. The first is through what’s called the Diploma route, where students spend two and a half years studying. Of this, one day a week is spent in College learning the theory (our students normally come from Duchy College, just down the road at Rosewarne!), and four days working with us, learning how to put it into practice. Once they pass their final practical exams (OSCEs) they get the coveted green uniform and oval badge to allow them to practice!

The second route is by taking a degree in veterinary nursing, which is usually a three year course, and is aimed at students who prefer a more academic approach, although they are still expected to reach the same practical standards.

So what are nurses involved in at the practice?

Well, ask any of the vets – our nurses are the people who keep the practice ticking over! Here at Monument, our nurses are involved in…

  • Admitting patients – if your pet has to come in for an operation, or any procedure, one of the nurses will meet them, go through the paperwork with you, and give them a good check-over to make sure we’re aware of any problems.
  • Laboratory work – although it’s the vet’s job to diagnose your pet’s illnesses, the nurses are usually the people who know how the blood machines work and who run the urine tests!
  • Preparing and positioning for X-rays – this is a really important and complicated job, because even a few degrees out in their position can mean that the X-ray is useless.
  • Looking after patients under anaesthesia – while the vet is operating, it’ll be the nurse who is monitoring the patient, and adjusting the depth of anaesthesia as directed if needed.
  • Helping in theatre – our nurses are often assisting our vets in theatre, either as a scrub nurse (who scrubs in to assist with the surgery) or unscrubbed (in charge of sorting out equipment and instruments).
  • Performing minor surgery – nurses can legally perform some minors surgeries, like stitch-ups, which can really take the pressure off the vets on a busy day!
  • Looking after in-patients in the wards – of course, a nurse’s true calling is looking after sick dogs, cats, rabbits and whatever else we have in! They continually monitor our in-patients, keeping an eye on their symptoms, giving medication, and helping to ensure that they have the best possible stay with us.
  • Running nursing clinics and puppy parties – we run separate nurse-led health-check clinics, as well as puppy parties for younger dogs, to help get them used to the vets, socialised, and pick up any problems early.
  • Managing our dispensary – including ordering in stock and dispensing medication – when you pick up your pet’s pills, the odds are it was one of our nurses who counted them out, packaged them up, labelled and handed them over!
  • Sorting out insurance claims – insurance companies do seem to love making their forms as complicated as possible – which is why we love it that our qualified and experienced nurses can help fill them in for you. They know what’s going on with the patient, and so can make sure there aren’t any errors or problems on the forms, which might delay settlement.
  • Training students – our Deputy Head Nurse, Amy Usher, is a qualified Clinical Coach, in charge of training students here in the practice.

If you want to know more about our nurses – pop in and ask one of them!




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