Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month (VNAM)


May is Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month.  The following details the important job a Veterinary Nurse carries out in practice.

What an RVN does in practice:


RVN’s are there to help both you and your pet by offering you advice or explaining any special care your pet may require. They can help you with:

  • Weight loss or nutrition
  • Advice on home nursing care for some health condition
  • Selecting flea/worming treatment for your pet
  • Behavioural advice
  • Help with your puppy/kitten
  • How to give medications
  • Insurance

Some RVN’s may also provide clinics in weight loss, post-operative check ups, nail clips, and 2nd vaccines.


Monitoring General Anaesthesia

  • RVN’s can monitor patients vital signs under anaesthesia (such as heart rate, respiration rate, mucous membrane colour and temperature).
  • Under the guidance of the operating Veterinary Surgeon they will alter the amount of anaesthetic gas the patient receives along with their oxygen to maintain good anaesthesia.
  • RVN’s will also recover animals from their anaesthetic, monitoring them closely to ensure they are recovering as normal and providing them with a comfy warm kennel.


Infection Control

RVN’s are in charge of keeping the practice clean and tidy, which in turn prevents further spread of infection within the practice. After each patient nurses will wipe down surfaces, clean surgical instruments, disinfect kennels after use and ensure everything is clean and ready for the next animal.

RVN’s can advise you on infectious diseases and preventative health care such as vaccination.


Inpatient Care

A RVN will look after your animal if they ever have to be admitted into the surgery. Care includes:

  • Observing and monitoring vital signs
  • Administering medications- tablets, topical or injectable
  • Providing adequate nutrition and water
  • Placing intravenous catheters for fluid therapy
  • Update the vet on your pets progress
  • Taking dogs out to the toilet/for short walks
  • TLC


Laboratory Technician

A RVN can assist the vet by running blood samples in house to check basic parameters. In Addition, RVN’s are trained to look at microscope slides to check cells, presence of bacteria or parasites. A RVN may also check a urine sample with a ‘dipstick’ test that checks urine parameters and detects some abnormalities such as glucose in the urine. The nurse will then report all these results to the Veterinary Surgeon in charge of the patient who can then make a diagnosis.



If your pet in admitted for radiography it may be an RVN taking the images ready for the vet to analyse and decide on any necessary treatment.

  • Position the animal for the x-ray
  • Prepare the radiography machine settings
  • Take the radiograph
  • Process the radiograph in the digital processor.

RVN’s will also assist the vet during ultrasound procedures by clipping up the abdominal area and holding (and reassuring) the animal. They may also take ECG (Electro Cardio Graph) readings for the vet to analyse.


Surgical Assistant

A RVN may assist the vet doing surgical procedures by acting as a sterile assistant. This may involve handing sterile instruments to the vet and ensuring the surgical site is clear.

Before surgery is performed, a RVN will prepare the animals skin for the procedure:

  1. Clipping any fur away from the area surgery will be performed
  2. Cleaning the skin with suitable preparation (Peviodine or Hibiscrub)
  3. Final preparation of the skin once in theatre with surgical spirit.

Some RVN’s may also do minor procedures such as small lump removals or stitching up wounds, this will be done under the direction of a veterinary surgeon.


Taking Samples

RVN’s can take samples from animals (as delegated by the Veterinary Surgeon) that may be analysed in house or at an external lab. Samples include:

  • Taking blood from the neck or leg
  • Urine samples
  • Faecal samples
  • Hair samples
  • Skin scrapes (samples of skin cells)


RCVS Register

Once qualified and all the relevant exams are passed nurses can apply to be a Registered Veterinary Nurse (or RVN) with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

  • These nurses will be wearing a red badge with the RCVS crest in the middle along with their green uniform.


Requirements for staying on the RCVS Register

  • Nurses are always learning: They must complete 45 hours of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) over 3 years- this can be achieved through courses, lectures or reading journals (just to name a few).
  • They must follow the RCVS Code of Conduct which outlines their responsibilities to their patients, clients and employers.
  • Currently, Veterinary Nursing is not a recognised profession but this is something current RVN’s are campaigning for.


Student Veterinary Nurses (SVN) can go down two routes when training:

University Degree (4 Years) or College Diploma (3 Years)

  • Both routes require the student to undertake assignments, exams (both theory and practical) and complete a practical progress log to earn the qualification.
  • Students will gain practical skills in a RCVS approved training practice throughout their training.



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