The vital role of the veterinary nurse

May is Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month, a campaign which aims to spread the word about the importance of this rewarding and challenging role. So, I thought I would tell you a bit about my job.

I was 12 years old and working weekends at a cattery, when I realised that I wanted to work with animals. Then I started work experience at my local vet practice, going into the theatres and watching operations. I was about 15 when I decided I wanted to be a veterinary nurse.

You can qualify by taking a two-year diploma. I went down the degree route which takes three years. The course included time in college as well as working in a practice and is quite demanding.  

The part of the job I love the most is the nurse clinics. You get to know the clients and you get to know the animals and see them progress. If it is weight management for example, they might come in at the start with mobility issues and a few months later they look like a completely different dog.

The sad times are the most challenging part of the job. When a pet is put to sleep there is usually a vet nurse present with the vet. I found it hard for a year or so. But I know that what we are doing is the best for the animal and that we can give them a nice ending, so they just fall asleep.  

People tend to think veterinary nursing is all cuddling puppies and kittens. We do get to cuddle and play with them, but there’s an awful lot more to it. Veterinary nurses can’t diagnose or prescribe, but once the vet has told us what needs to be done, we do it. It’s a lot of responsibility. We give medications and care for the animals as they recover from operations.  

One of the most challenging aspects is administering anaesthetics. The vet does the surgery, and the nurse monitors and manages the anaesthetic in constant communication with the vet. It is just like in human surgery where you would have an anaesthetist.  

You don’t really switch off from this job. If you have an animal in the practice, you can be at home thinking about them quite a lot and wondering if they are ok.

My tip for anyone thinking about becoming a veterinary nurse is, make sure it is definitely the job that you want to do. Do quite a lot of work experience first, to build up your experience and knowledge. 

This can be the most rewarding job in the world, but it can be quite intense and is not for everyone. 

*Paragon vet nurse clinics are running for mobility including laser therapy, weight management and senior checks.