May is Veterinary Nurse month, and seeing as I just found out that I have been shortlisted for the Irish Veterinary Nurse of the Year Award (yay!) I felt I should address Veterinary Nursing in this months blog post.
There was a time, back when I was training in college, when most people would raise an eyebrow when I said what I was studying; “so you’re going on to be a vet is it?” was a question I heard a lot (and sometimes still hear!). Ireland has definitely come a long way on the past 10 years or so in recognising veterinary nurses as the professionals we are but there does still seem to be some mystery about what exactly my job, so i hope to de-mystify veterinary nursing for you.
One of the first things to note is that we are quite similar to human nurses in that main duties are caring for our patients and assisting our doctors (vets). I’m sure a human nurse wouldn’t be too pleased if she/he was asked “so you’re going on to be Doctor is it?” – equally they probably aren’t too happy at me calling them “human nurses”! Where vet medicine differs from human medicine is the scope of our knowledge and the tasks we carry out. Human medicine is very speciailised, as it should be. We have a doctor for skin, a doctor for children, a doctor for lungs, a doctor for hearts etc and most of these will have a corresponding nurse who has chosen a speciality: pediatrics, cardiac, surgical – the list goes on and on. This means they have a very deep knowledge of that one particular organ and the diseases and nursing requirements that go along with it. In veterinary medicine, we see a huge range of not only different diseases but of course different species too. The knowledge is very wide rather than deep; there’s a huge amount of information to keep on tap at all times. I like to think of veterinary medicine as being all things to all people (well animals) You can be a dentist to a cat in the morning, a radiographer to a rabbit in the afternoon and a pain management specialist to a dog in the evening.
There was a time when any lay-person could call themselves a Veterinary Nurse, but thankfully this has now changed in Ireland. Veterinary Nurse is now a protected title, and only those who met a minimum set of requirements can hold it. In order to become a Registered Veterinary Nurse (R.V.N) you have to have completed a degree in veterinary nursing from one of the five recognised courses in the country, you must be registered with the Veterinary Council of Ireland and finally you must keep your education up-t0-date by regularly attending continuing professional development lectures; this is imperative as medicine is always evolving and changing so we all have a duty to ensure we are using the most up-to-date treatments and medications available to us.
A typical day for me consists of cleaning/feeding/walking my inpatients, answering phone calls all day, giving advice to clients, admitting and discharging surgeries, taking and running blood samples, cytology preparation, prepping patients for surgery, monitoring anaesthetics, adminisering medications, ordering food/drugs as needed, assisting with surgeries, paperwork for insurances, cleaning, restraining patients, taking x-rays and taking payments. It can be hectic, but the variety is what I love most about this job. There the difficult side to this job- seeing an animal I care about deeply suffering, an owner having to make a diffuclt decision and euthanasia are all things I will never get used to fully. Of course the job has some massive perks aswell – yes, occasionally I do get to cuddle bundles of puppies and kittens and a lot of my patients greet me happily each time I see them. For me, the positive definitely outweighs the negative but it can be draining to deal with so many ups and downs!
The following link has soke nice information for anyone considering a career in vet Nursing; although this is a British website a lot of the information is relevant for ireland too:
I hope this post clears up any queries about Veterinary Nursing you might have had; fingers crossed for the IVNA Nurse of the Year Awards on May 21st!