Perhaps you currently work in the pet industry and are looking for a change. Or maybe you’re exploring ways to get your foot in the door. Either way, a career as a vet nurse can be both rewarding and challenging.

If you absolutely adore animals and you’re also pretty passionate about people, working as a vet nurse might just be the ‘pawfect’ job for you! Let’s take a look at what the role involves. Discover the key traits you’ll need, and how to gain the necessary qualifications.

The role of a veterinary nurse

The role and responsibilities of a veterinary nurse are incredibly varied. Duties range from preparing animals for surgery and laboratory testing to assisting with medical treatment and clinical examinations.

Essentially, the role of a vet nurse is to support the work of the veterinarian. According to the Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia (VNCA), daily tasks may include scrubbing in for surgical procedures, monitoring anaesthetics and assisting with pet dental practices.

Maintaining workplace and patient cleanliness, as well as reception work is a key part of the job. Furthermore, a vet nurse can be called upon to update patient records, take phone calls, schedule appointments, and organise billing.

Certainly, an ability to be caring and compassionate towards animals, as well as excellent human communication skills are paramount.

Traits of a successful vet nurse

As is the case with most jobs, there are certain traits that will help you succeed in the role. Key attributes for veterinary nurses include:

  • Awesome communication skills
  • Compassionate and caring nature
  • Confidence working with and handling different animals
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Confident working independently
  • Ability to think on your feet when under pressure
  • Computer skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Good level of maths and English

The great thing about veterinary nursing is that there is an array of different practices in which you can be employed. For example, you might work at a zoo, in a veterinary clinic or in a teaching hospital. In addition, you can choose to work with only large animals, smaller species or even exotic animals (Move over Joe Exotic!).

Of course, depending on which environment you choose to work in your typical working week and hours may vary. However, according to the Australian College of Veterinary Nursing (ACVN), most nurses work Monday to Friday, with overtime as and when needed. If you work in an extended-hour clinic or for a 24/7 pet emergency centre, night shift and weekend hours are likely.

What qualifications do you need?

Certainly, it takes more than a caring nature and a love of animals to become a vet nurse. The two main nationally-recognised qualifications are the Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing (ACM40418) and the Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (ACM50519).

To enroll for the Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing you must have a Certificate II or III in Animal Studies (or an equivalent animals care qualification or higher) and be employed in a veterinary practice 1 day a week.

If you’re considering the Diploma in Veterinary Nursing, there are four Diplomas available: General Practice, Surgery, Dental Care and Emergency & Critical Care. This allows you to specialise in an area of interest to you.

Another point to note is that the pet industry and veterinary professional is constantly evolving. As such, a love for continuous learning and education is important to stay up to date. There is an array of short courses and workshops available to help expand your knowledge and assist you to be the best vet nurse you can be.

Does this sound like something you’d be interested in? Maybe there’s a career as a vet nurse awaiting you!

Useful resources to check out:

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Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure for the past 12 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals.

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