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What Does a Vet Nurse Do? Expectations Vs. Reality
If you are looking for a hands-on, varied job that has you caring for some of our most vulnerable family members and allows you to be a trusted member of the community, a career as a vet nurse might be right up your street.
Life in the vet nursing field can be rewarding in many ways. As an added perk, employment in the vet nurse sector is highly positive, with solid growth over the last five years in Australia that is expected to continue well into the future.
So, what can you expect in a role as a vet nurse?
Like most jobs, there is often more to being a vet nurse than meets the eye.
What does a vet nurse do?
Veterinary nurses are an essential part of a veterinary team and have a respected position in any practice.
This diverse role brings new experiences daily. The job may involve supervising other staff in animal health and requires solid knowledge in clinical animal care and veterinary practice procedures.
A day in vet nursing can include tasks like:
- Animal triage (initial assessments)
- Consulting room preparation
- Operating area preparation
- Equipment management and sterilising
- Emergency care
- Administering medication to animals
- Diagnostic testing
- Minor medical procedures
- Animal euthanasia assistance
- Assisting senior veterinarians
- Comforting worried or grieving owners
- Stock management
- Animal discharge procedures
What vet nursing is not:
It's not just working with animals
One of the common misconceptions about vet nursing is that you just work with animals all day and not people — and while it is important that you have a genuine love for animals, a strong sense of empathy must extend to their owners. Vet nurses are required to gather important information from pet families, comfort them at times and educate them in areas of animal care.
It's not a cushy job
A career in vet nursing is pretty demanding. Vet nurses are on their feet most of the day, have to hold animals in place physically (big and small) for procedures, examinations and x-rays, and have many responsibilities to stay on top of. Think of it as the same as nursing for humans — and we all know how hard nurses work!
Is vet nursing for you?
Like any job, vet nursing is suited to some more than others. There needs to be more than a love for little furry creatures — you need a genuine desire to work hard to improve animals’ health and physical wellbeing.
What are some signs that vet nursing is your perfect career?
You like people
As we have already covered, although you are choosing to work with animals every day, you need to show genuine compassion for anxious or upset owners. You also need to collaborate and use communication skills to work effectively as part of a team with practice managers, assistants and vets.
You enjoy physical work
A day in the life of a vet nurse involves a lot of physical work. Even when you are not treating an animal, you may be tasked with cleaning cages, setting up treatment areas or many other tasks that assist in the smooth running of the vet clinic.
You're realistic about what the job involves
A lot of the job as a vet nurse is helping animals stay or get well. But there are also times when you have to give bad news to pet owners, nurse animals that are in severe pain or even assist with euthanasia. Although these are tough parts of the role in vet nursing, they are essential, and you need to be prepared for them.
You're interested in medicine
Vet nursing is a medical profession, and it requires a completed qualification to do it. Day to day, you may administer medications and anaesthetics, dress wounds, take blood and perform many other clinical procedures.
What's involved in vet nurse training?
Completed formal qualifications, adequate hands-on work experience and ongoing professional development ensure that vet nurses are trained at the highest level.
In this sought-after role, vet nurses must have at least a Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing. The entry requirements for this qualification often involve previous studies such as a Certificate II in Animal Studies or equivalent.
To gain more advanced skills in vet nursing, a diploma in veterinary nursing can be completed.
VET course providers like TAFEs or RTOs (registered training organisations) often have flexible learning conditions for these qualifications. They can be taken full-time or part-time, and fee subsidies are available for eligible learners.
Once you have completed your qualification, you can join The Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia Inc (VNCA). Membership in the VNCA allows vet nurses access to the Australian Veterinary Nurse and Technician (AVNAT) Registration Scheme. It also offers a host of helpful occupational resources plus access to further development and a strong network of industry leaders for support.
What other jobs in animal care are there?
If vet nursing isn’t feeling like the right career move for you, don’t worry — there are plenty of other roles in animal care that might be.
Animal attendants often work in animal shelters, catteries, kennels, animal-stay services, groomers or even zoos. They care for animals by providing food, water, safety and protection and help with any tasks animals may need assistance with.
Dog grooming requires skills in working with animals as well as a bit of artistic flair. The role can be extremely rewarding and is excellent for people with great patience and attention to detail. A role in dog grooming could even lead you to start your own business.
Veterinary assistants work in a veterinary clinic and (as the name suggests) assist vets in day to day animal healthcare tasks. They are limited to the medical help they can perform but work with a larger team to improve the health and wellbeing of animals.
Whether you think a career as a vet nurse is perfect for you, or you’d like to continue your search for the ideal animal welfare job that allows you to exercise your personable, nurturing nature — the right job and career path could be just around the corner.
Courses and training options are available to people at any level and can be flexible enough to fit into already busy lives.
Ready to take the next step in becoming a Vet Nurse?
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