Veterinary nursing is a relatively young profession, it has only been established as a profession for the last 50 years, and has kept pushing the boundaries of the Para health care profession. Veterinary nurses perform a huge array of tasks from health care and basic animal welfare to diagnostic tests, medical treatments and assist in minor surgical procedures under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon. Veterinary nurses can work in a range of places, for example, in a general practice, a specialist centre, in education or industry. Veterinary nurses draw on their own personal experiences and base of knowledge to determine a care plan and the required nursing intervention for each patient throughout the animals stay in the practice. Vets are often assisted by registered veterinary nurses, who are able to both assist the vet and to autonomously practice a range of skills of their own, including minor surgery under direction from a responsible vet.
Veterinary surgeons have had in some form or another, assistance throughout the history of the profession. In 1908 the Canine Nurses Institute was set up as the first working Para Veterinary Institute where Veterinary assistants were trained as canine nurses. The founder of the Canine Nurses Institute was quoted saying the nurses would,” carry out directions of the veterinary surgeon, meet a genuine need on the part of the dog owners, and at the same time provide a reasonably paid occupation for young women with a real liking for animals”.
In 1913, the Ruislip Dog Sanatorium was founded. This was one of the first places to offer employment to nurses. These nurses primarily cared for dogs at this time. In the 1930s the first veterinary nurses took charge of their profession and approached the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to appeal for official recognition. In 1957 official recognition was given first with the title of veterinary nurse, however this was changed within the year to Royal Animal Nursing Auxiliaries. This was due to complaints from the human nursing profession that the title should be reserved for them and their roles as nurses. Walter Collins, known as the father of veterinary technology for devising the first teaching programmes for training veterinary technicians in the united states in 1965.
. Human nursing associations have always claimed rights to the term “nurse” and this was always protected by law until 1984. Until 1984 the term “nurse” was only applied to the human nursing profession due to claims that veterinary nurses do not perform the same tasks as human nurses. In the United States the term nurse is still reserved for human based nursing. The American Nursing Association and some state nursing associations have claimed all rights to the term ‘nurse’.
Most veterinary technicians in the United States still argue that their profession includes almost one hundred percent nursing tasks and interventions almost identical to those of human nurses. Veterinary nurses should be allowed to use the title of nurse. Veterinary Nurses are just as much nurses as human nurses. Vet nurses carry out almost identical procedures and often have more responsibilities than a human nurse. The same respect is not given for both professions as human life will always be valued more than that of animals. Below is a list of nursing duties performed by human nurses
Duties may vary depending on your role but will usually include:
Nursing Interventions and patient care plans
Carrying out care plans, this may include preparing patients for operations, treating and dressing wounds, monitoring pulse, blood pressure and temperature
Constant observation and recording of the patient’s condition
Preparing and administering medication and injections
Setting up drips and blood transfusions
Assisting with tests and evaluations
Routine check-ups and investigations
Quick Response to emergencies
Planning discharges from hospital and liaising with community nurses, GPs and social workers
Communication with not only the doctor but the patient and relatives, need to be a calming influence
Organising staff and delegating tasks and shifts
Mentoring student and junior nurses
Updating and maintaining patient records
making ethical decisions related to consent and confidentiality
These duties are very similar to those of a veterinary nurse. Veterinary Nurses have devised their own care plans for patients, ensuring that times and doses are recorded correctly and making sure good quality of patient care is maintained. Veterinary Nurses run blood tests, obtain samples of blood/urine, they administer drugs an injections, carry out investigations and routine check-ups, they work closely with the vet and other lay staff in the animal practice. Dealing with owners is an everyday occurrence, getting to know them and making them more comfortable is also all part of a veterinary nurse’s role. The veterinary Nurses run the animal practice. Besides taking care of all in patients and seeing patients coming in and out of the clinic, they also have the role of managing the practice. This can include anything from stock ordering to maintaining a clean environment. The term “nurse” cannot be reserved for human nurses. Nursing is something that many people are passionate about and it shouldn’t matter what you are nursing when a universal standard of nursing is put in place.
The range of practice for veterinary workers varies depending which country you practice in, and by qualification level. In some places, there are several levels of Para veterinary workers. One example of this is in the United Kingdom, you will find not only veterinary nurses but also, Lay people, who have the same rights as any unqualified person when It comes to animal care, ie. They are not entitled to be unsupervised or carry out any sort of task on their own; however they are under supervision allowed to assist in minor tasks and secretarial tasks.
Veterinary Nurses are there to be the vets third hand and to assist the vet, however veterinary nurses are also able to perform certain tasks on their own, for example recording of pulse, temperature and weight. Wound and trauma management is carried out which includes cleaning and dressing the wounds, and applying splints and other necessary equipment. There are also physical interventions such as catheterizations, ear flushes and venepuncture. Preparing and analysing biological samples such as skin scrapings, microbiology, urinalysis, and microscopy.
Veterinary nurses will also be called upon to operate diagnostic screening equipment such as, electrocardiographic, radiographic and ultrasonography instruments, including complex machines such as computed tomography, magnetic resonance imagers and gamma cameras. It is part of a veterinary nurses role to ensure that all equipment prior to surgery or radiography is in good working condition. Another role of the veterinary nurse is to ensure that patient records and inventory of all pharmaceuticals are up to date and in stock.
When an animal is brought in to the veterinary practice, the nurses are often the first people there to greet the animal and owner. These first greetings are very important to set the tone for the practice and relax the owner and patient. Prior to the Vet even seeing the patient it is the nurse’s duty to take the patients temperature and weight. This information along with the other patient’s information is recorded; this allows the vet to see any changes to the animal’s general health. Once the vet has seen the patient it is the nurse’s job to update the patients records with a diagnosis and a recommendation for a treatment plan.
During examinations it is the veterinary nurses job to assist the vet any way necessary, this could be a simple restraint manoeuvre or the patient may require muzzling. The veterinary nurse will also assist or perform the task of bandaging wounds and treating wounds with ointments and cleaning. Furthermore if an animal requires medication the correct syringe, needle and dose may be prepared, administration must take place under vet supervision or simply with permission. One of the most important responsibilities of a veterinary nurse is caring for and preparing animals for surgery, monitoring the animal during the operation and then making sure the patient is settled and ready for recovery post operation. During surgery, a veterinary nurse might assist the Vet by handing over surgical instruments and monitoring the patient’s respiratory rates.
In -patients, at the practice are the responsibility of the veterinary nurses. This includes making sure the animals five freedoms are maintained, for example freedom to eat and drink. The veterinary nurse will have to administer any medications required several times a day or night and will also have to take care of duties such as taking the patients out to urinate and cleaning the environment the animal is in. The veterinary surgeon will at times request blood test to determine whether a patient has for example anaemia, or urine tests for their patients. Veterinary nurses often perform routine tasks such as checking for worms or ear mites in the animals ear, these are very common.
The educational requirements for a veterinary nurse vary from one country to the next, but are generally anywhere from two to four years of college or university. For most higher education courses it is a requirement to have had work experience or internships within a veterinary practice. All veterinary nurses must be registered or listed with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Registered or listed veterinary nurses have dispensations in law ,since the Veterinary Surgeons Act of 1966 amended in 2002), to undertake certain procedures to include minor surgery on animals under veterinary direction. Registered veterinary nurses (RVNs) are bound by a code of professional conduct. Those VN’s listed after 2002 are automatically registered
United Kingdom and many other countries the profession of the veterinary nurse and the title is protected by them being registered, this means any nurse not registered would not be allowed to represent themselves as a registered veterinary nurse (RVN).Veterinary Nurses are also restricted in certain areas due to the fact that the profession has yet to be fully re-examined alongside the new programmes of study. The tasks performed by the veterinary assistant 30 years ago are no longer the same as the roles of the modern veterinary nurse. Current degree programmes cover everything from patient restraint to drug administration giving veterinary nurses new responsibilities and abilities.
In some cases, those people who qualified before the introduction of formal academic qualification requirements may still be working as veterinary nurses. In the United States unregistered veterinary nurses who can prove they have completed a set number of years and hours of experience as a veterinary assistant were eligible to sit the veterinary technical national exam, however this route was phased out in 2011 and future candidates must have an academic qualification.
All veterinary nurses must be registered or listed with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Registered or listed veterinary nurses have dispensations in law [the Veterinary Surgeons Act of 1966 amended in 2002)] to undertake certain procedures to include minor surgery on animals under veterinary direction. Registered veterinary nurses (RVNs) are bound by a code of professional conduct. Those VN’s listed after 2002 were automatically registered.
The role of a veterinary Nurse has such a huge range that it is difficult to pinpoint all tasks performed by vet nurses. As we have seen from above the veterinary nurse has many similar responsibilities to a human nurse. The term “Nursing” should be applies to everyone carrying out nursing tasks and handling patients. Because the Veterinary Nursing is officially so young there are not enough regulations in place to fully expand the profession. A veterinary nurse is a minor veterinary surgeon that has a wide knowledge base and a huge array of skills. A veterinary Nurses ability ranges from minor surgery to administration of possibly lethal drugs. These responsibilities should be more widely acknowledged and regulated. There are still too many cases of veterinary nurses that are not registered and therefore cannot be controlled. Just like going to the doctor with your child going to the veterinary practice should be a safe experience, clients should be able to fully trust that their animals are in the best hands possible. It is the hope of the many veterinary nurses that sooner rather than later the veterinary nursing profession is acknowledged for what it truly is and for what veterinary nurses truly do.