Veterinary nurses are the ones who assist in sterilizing and cleaning equipment, as well, as doing higher-level tasks, including helping with the administration of anesthesia during surgery, performing dental procedures, taking and running tests on blood and stool samples, and educating owners on proper aftercare. Veterinary nurses work together with veterinarians and provide emergency and routine care.
In order to be a veterinary nurse, a person has to have attained a Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing. The training programs for vet usually last for two years of full-time study.
The term veterinary nurse is used in several countries, while other countries avoid this term because of the confusion that it might cause in the minds of the public about who is qualified to do what. The title ‘veterinary nurse’ was first used in 1984 and vet nurses are qualified to assist veterinarians to perform acts of veterinary science.
The term veterinary nurse is used in the majority of anglophone countries. The people in this profession have a formal scope of practice and a degree of autonomy in their role. However, both the United States and Canada refer to these workers as veterinary technicians or technologists. This is where the confusion comes from. There is a formal registration process in most Canadian provinces where veterinarians are legally required to hire registered veterinary technicians. Registered veterinary technicians have to attend an accredited college and pass a licensing exam, as well as, meet licensing criteria and yearly continuing education requirements.
The rights over the term ‘nurse’ have been claimed over the human nursing association. In fact, this term is protected by law in some countries. This remains to be the case in the United States. In fact, the American Nursing Association and some state nursing associations have claimed rights over the term. Moreover, as veterinary technicians spend 90% of their time performing nursing tasks, many veterinary technicians believe that they should be allowed to use the title of veterinary nurse, like in other countries.
The term ‘veterinary nurse’ is used in New Zealand, Australia, the Republic of Ireland and the UK, whereas the USA uses the term ‘veterinary technician’.
However, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America started a “veterinary nurse initiative” in 2016 which aims to rename veterinary technicians as veterinary nurses. The initiative also includes trying to establish a national standard for credentialing.