Your Guide to a Career as a Veterinary Nurse or Assistant

ici - Your Guide to a Career as a Veterinary Nurse or Assistant

If you love animals and picture a life surrounded by them, a job as a veterinary nurse could be just the career for you. Veterinary nurses work alongside veterinary surgeons, caring for animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and in some jobs, farm or zoo animals.

The role of a veterinary nurse changes from practice to practice, but generally a vet nurse should expect to:

  • Familiarise themselves with patient notes
  • Prepare animals for surgery
  • Reassure and comfort distressed owners
  • Keep animals calm while a vet examines and treats them
  • Sterilise surgical instruments
  • Give drugs and injections to animals
  • Apply bandages to wounds and fractures
  • Monitor animal vitals post-surgery
  • Perform simple laboratory tests and x-rays
  • Provide feed, fresh bedding and water to animals in their care
  • Manage some administrative work such as logging appointments and keeping records on treatment
  • Provide information and advice to owners
  • Educate owners on nutrition and preventative care, as well as basic behavioural advice.

In some roles, veterinarian nurses may take on a management position, which could include preparing staff rotas, overseeing stocks of drugs, and accounts work.

Academic qualification

You can become a veterinary nurse with the International Career Institute Pet Care/ VET Assistant course. The course provides you the opportunity to interact with and learn from very successful, highly qualified and experienced professionals, learning insider secrets in months instead of years. Graduates not only find work as veterinary nurses, but as pet therapists, animal trainers, zoo and wildlife park workers, and with animal welfare shelters. An advanced diploma takes roughly around 31 weeks, and there are no previous work or education requirements.

All veterinary nurses must enrol with the RCVS, the regulatory body for the veterinary profession in the United Kingdom, to legally undertake certain nursing procedures.


A career in veterinary nursing can be highly rewarding, but in order to succeed you need to have certain personal attributes as well as academic qualification. These attributes include:

Calmness: Working in a veterinarian office you will be faced with all kinds of situations. Animals can get very worked up, as can owners, and it’s important that you remain calm at all times. During surgery, a calm head will help you make quick decisions, which can be the difference of life or death.

Confidence: You might think that by being a veterinarian nurse you will be under constant guidance and instruction by a vet. This is rarely true, and veterinary nurses are expected to think on their own two feet and have confidence in their decision-making abilities. Yes you’ll be part of a care team, but you’ll also be assigned your own animals to care for.

Assertiveness: Being assertive means communicating with others in a direct and honest manner without intentionally hurting a person’s feelings. It’s the quality of being self-assured and confident, allowing you to communicate a situation clearly and positively. There will be times when you are met with hostile owners or owners unwilling to recognise they are putting their animal in danger. Your job will be to make them understand.

Resilience: Saving an animal’s life or curing sickness is an incredible part of a veterinarian nurse’s career. But a visit to the vets doesn’t always end well. Animals are euthanised, some don’t pull through surgery, and some get very distressed at being separated from their owners. This can be a very difficult thing to witness as an animal lover, and to get through it unscathed you must separate your own feelings and get on with the job. You need to be caring, but rational too.

Dedication: Veterinary nurses work very hard and there’s not much time in the day to sit down. The job comes with many physical demands, and in the case of surgery, you should expect to work some overtime. If you’re dedicated, however, your days will fly by and you’ll absolutely love what you do.

Job guide

Veterinary nurses generally work between 35-40 hours per week, with some work on weekends. A rota basis will commonly be used for on-call emergencies. Part time work is often available too.

Most work will be carried out indoors, be it in reception, treatment rooms, or an operating theatre. If your practice specialises in farm or zoo animals, you may make daily off-site visits. At all times veterinary nurses are expected to follow a simple set of standards, which should be considered in the context of the five principles of practice:

  1. Professional competence
  2. Honesty and integrity
  3. Independence and impartiality
  4. Client confidentiality and trust
  5. Professional accountability

As a veterinary nurse, your first and foremost priority is animal health and welfare. It is therefore essential that you maintain and develop the knowledge and skills relevant to your professional practice. You must also learn to work as part of a team, coordinating the care of animals and the delivery of services.

Employment trends

The demand for veterinary nurses is growing every year and employment opportunities are forecasted to grow by a further 18% over the next decade. This means that a career in veterinary nursing is particularly lucrative, with the number of job openings expected to exceed the number of new graduates. Medical care for animals is a growing priority, and as more people take on the role of pet ownership, the need for veterinary nurses only grows.

Think you’ve got what it takes to be a vet nurse? Turn your love of animals into a successful profession and enrol in our Veterinary Assistant Course now.

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Gladys Mae


Gladys Mae serves as the General Manager and Head of Student Services at the International Career Institute. Gladys holds a degree in Mass Communication - Broadcast Media from the University of San Jose-Recoletos. She joined ICI in 2010 and has over the past 12 years been instrumental in providing leadership and guidance to staff and students alike. Prior to joining ICI Gladys led a multifaceted career with key roles in the banking and business process outsourcing industries.