How to become a Veterinary Nurse

Veterinary nurses provide support to veterinarians in the management and care of animals receiving medical and surgical treatment.

Personal requirements of a Veterinary Nurse

  • Enjoy working with animals
  • Able to handle animals with confidence and patience
  • Able to make accurate observations
  • Good communication skills
  • Good organisational skills
  • Able to work as part of a team

Education & Training for a Veterinary Nurse

To become a veterinary nurse you usually have to complete a VET qualification in veterinary nursing. As subjects and prerequisites can vary between institutions, you should contact your chosen institution for further information. You can also become a veterinary nurse through a traineeship in Veterinary Nursing. Entry requirements may vary, but employers generally require Year 10. For more details, see Section 2. Ask your career adviser about the possibility of starting some of this training in school.

Duties & Tasks of a Veterinary Nurse

Veterinary nurses may perform the following tasks:

  • assist veterinarians during consultations, examinations and treatments
  • coordinate patient admission and discharge
  • care for hospitalised animals, including wound management and bandaging support, feeding and exercising
  • assist with surgery preparations by clipping and shaving fur or hair, swabbing skin, and administering and monitoring anaesthesia
  • provide surgical support by handling instruments, swabbing blood, monitoring oxygen and intravenous fluids, and providing post-operative care
  • perform diagnostic laboratory tests (including urine, faecal and blood tests) and assist veterinarians to produce diagnostic radiographs
  • assist with procedures involving radiography, ultrasound, endoscopy and electrocardiography
  • give medication to animals under the direction of a veterinarian
  • maintain hygiene by cleaning and disinfecting animal cages, floors, benchtops, consulting rooms, waiting rooms and surgeries
  • sterilise instruments, dressings and other equipment
  • maintain stock control of medicines, bandages, cotton wool, syringes and other equipment
  • maintain equipment to be in good working order
  • perform reception duties, including answering the telephone, making appointments, preparing accounts, accepting payments and writing receipts
  • provide animal care information on nutrition, parasite control and behaviour
  • educate owners about responsible pet ownership and maintaining the health and wellbeing of their pets
  • record and maintain clinical and office records of animals attending the surgery (usually on a computer).

Working conditions for a Veterinary Nurse

Veterinary nurses work as part of a team in veterinary consulting rooms, surgeries and hospitals. They generally work under strict clinical conditions. They may also be involved in the management of the staff and financial and technical resources of a veterinary practice, animal hospital or similar treatment facility. Working hours may be irregular, including evening and weekend work.

Employment Opportunities for a Veterinary Nurse

Veterinary nurses are mainly employed by veterinarians in private practices, but some find work looking after animals in zoos, wildlife parks and animal welfare organisations, as well as in veterinary research and teaching institutions. Some experienced veterinary nurses are now gaining employment in marketing and merchandising with veterinary pharmaceutical organisations. A small number are also entering the field of veterinary practice management, or specialising in specific areas such as dental, surgical support or emergency and critical care nursing.

Additional Information
Students are usually required to organise access to a veterinary clinic for full-time or part-time employment and work practice. After completing the Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing and gaining 12 months of experience, you may be able to apply for accreditation with the Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia (VNCA). Veterinary nurses in WA are required to register with the Veterinary Surgeons’ Board of WA.
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