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Veterinary Nurse

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2018: 5,001 to 10,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: < $900 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2014
Brief Imagine nursing and caring for a patient who cannot tell you if they are in pain, feeling thirsty, hot or disoriented? Veterinary nurses learn the specialised skills needed in caring for sick or injured animals during all avenues of examination, treatment and surgery.

There are currently around 500 veterinary nurses employed in South Australia. Half are employed full-time and most work in the health and community services industry. Most persons in this occupation are female and over half are employed in the Adelaide metropolitan area. This occupation has a younger age profile with just over a tenth of veterinary nurses aged 45 years or older.

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TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Veterinary Nurse

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A dog has just been bitten by a snake and a cat has been admitted with kidney failure. The veterinary nurse's day is busy, centred on the care and welfare of these and other animal patients. Like a regular nurse they have to perform a wide range of duties assisting the veterinarian in examinations and surgery. This may include cleaning, sterilising and preparing surgical instruments, monitoring the anaesthetic during operations and giving medication and injections under veterinary supervision. They also may insert catheters for intravenous fluids, develop x-rays and perform clerical duties and receptionist work.

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Education Requirements

There are 31% of veterinary nurses who have Certificate III or Certificate IV, 10% have Advanced Diplomas or Diplomas, and 5% have Bachelor Degrees or higher qualifications. While there are 28% who have no post school qualifications it is recommended that you gain the available qualifications to get the best possible chance of employment.

TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Diploma of Veterinary Nursing (Emergency & Critical Care) and the Diploma of Veterinary Nursing (General Practice). Pathways include the Certificate II in Animal Studies and Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing. Other courses associated with this occupation include the Certificate III and Diploma in Animal Technology and the Certificate III and IV in Captive Animals.

Still unsure? Then try a short course also offered through TAFE SA such as So You Want to Work with Animals? or Veterinary Terminology.

Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing
Diploma of Veterinary Nursing (Emergency and Critical Care)

Still unsure? Then enrol in a short course also offered through TAFE SA. For further information about these and related courses go to the TAFE SA website at

Career Path

There are great opportunities for the career-minded veterinary nurse to make this an exciting career. Veterinary nurses can specialise in areas such as dental, critical care and emergency, surgical or practice management.

Veterinary nurses are mainly employed in private veterinary practices. Others are employed looking after animals in veterinary research or teaching institutions. Veterinary pharmaceutical organisations also hire veterinary nurses for marketing and promotion positions. With experience and training, some veterinary nurses can become practice managers.


Health and Community Services

Nature of the Job

According to one hospital manager at a veterinary clinic, it is the variety of duties that has kept her excited about her job for almost 30 years. You can expect every day to be different, as each animal represents a different medical challenge. 'I love the fact that each phone call can alter your day in an instant, or one person can walk through the door and alter everything,' says Kate. This could include accompanying the vet to do a house call to check a sick cat, seeing an emergency road victim or holding together a piece of intestine while the surgeon stitches it together. In a rural practice it wouldn't be unusual for a veterinary nurse to file horses' teeth and assist in an emergency caesarean operation on a cow.

Typical Physical Working Environment

A love of animals may not be enough however, to sustain you in this job. There are a lot of menial tasks to be done such as cleaning the kennels and continuously clearing animal faeces. Even a senior intensive care nurse like Susan who works at an Adelaide veterinary hospital has to do her share of these tasks. Though she does have a positive slant on kennel duties. 'Cleaning kennels can be a good thing because you are directly checking the patient. Are they eating? Are they distressed? And you do need to make the place as aseptic as possible so your animal will not get an infection or bring it into the hospital. It's about having pride in your work place. 'A veterinary nurse must also be prepared for the fact that some animals don't recover or need to have euthanasia (death by chemical injection). A veterinary nurse may have to dispose of animal remains and arrange cremations. Grief counselling skills are important, as the vet nurse must help a client come to terms with the loss of a 'family member'. Especially in small animal practices where vet nurses have established an excellent rapport with their clients and are perhaps seeing a second or third generation of pets come through the door.' The unnecessary euthanasia, when an owner can't cope any longer with a pet and have a healthy animal put down is the hardest part of the job,' according to one nurse.

Typical Occupational Example

Traditionally, the nursing profession has attracted more females than males and veterinary nursing is no exception. Job growth is average with only about 30 new openings a year, though there are also employment opportunities in associated areas such as catteries and animal refuges. Some vet nurses also can find work as drug company representatives or sales representatives in companies.

For further information, contact:

Australian Veterinary Association (SA)
13/70 Walkerville Tce, Walkerville SA 5081
Ph: (08) 8344 6337
Fax: (08) 8344 9227
Internet Address:

Earning Potential

Salaries vary with experience and age. Junior veterinary nurses earn approximately $30,000 per year and senior nurses or hospital managers can earn close to $40,000.

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online