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 2020: 5,001 to 10,000
Median weekly earnings: $951 to $1,100
Australian Government Department of Employment projections to 2020
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.

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.

  • A Certificate IV, or at least 3 years of relevant experience, is usually needed. Most workers have a Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification. Sometimes experience or on-the-job training is needed in addition to a qualification.

    TAFE SA offers a course relevant to this occupation being the Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing and Diploma of Animal Technology. Pathways include the Certificate II in Animal Studies and Certificate III in Companion Animal Services.

    Studying at TAFE SA is one of the easiest and most successful pathways towards a University Degree. Dual offer courses are available to TAFE SA and Flinders University in the Diploma of Animal Technology/Bachelor of Science (Animal Behaviour).

    Still unsure? Then try a short course also offered through TAFE SA - check the website for short courses available.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Veterinary nurses work in most parts of Australia and full-time work is fairly common with full-time workers on average working 36.7 hours per week.

    Working as part of a team in consulting rooms, surgeries and hospitals generally under strict clinical conditions. They may also be involved in the management of staff, financial and technical resources. Working hours may be irregular, including evening and weekend work. You will need to able to handle animals confidently and with patience.