There are two routes to becoming a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN): The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Diploma in Veterinary Nursing or via an RCVS approved degree program.

Veterinary nursing is a very hands-on, practical job and so all routes of training involve a mixture of theory and practical training at your college or university and practical training through work placements in a veterinary practice.

Diploma in Veterinary Nursing – entry qualifications

To enter onto the Diploma in Veterinary Nursing course, prospective students are required to have one of the following qualifications:

  • Five GCSEs at grade C or above, to include English Language, Biological Science, Mathematics plus two other subjects.
  • Veterinary Care Assistant (VCA) qualification, plus Mathematics and English GCSE, or Functional Skills equivalent.
  • Animal Nursing Assistant (ANA) qualification, plus Mathematics and English GCSE, or Functional Skills equivalent.
  • Diploma for Veterinary Nursing Assistants (Dip ANA), plus Mathematics and English GCSE, or Functional Skills equivalent.
  • Diploma in Animal Nursing (Dip AN), plus Mathematics and English GCSE, or Functional Skills equivalent.

The VCA, ANA, Dip VNA and Dip AN qualifications are run by further education colleges. These qualifications take approximately a year to complete. The courses are run on either a day release or distance learning basis, with the student being practically trained within a veterinary practice. These qualifications have no entry requirements, so they are ideal for people who do not have the required GCSEs to start the VN Diploma.

The Goddard Veterinary Group runs the VCA course in-house as a one-year day release course – see the section below titled Training with Goddard Veterinary Group.

Once you have the required entry qualifications the next step is to move on to veterinary nursing training. There is stiff competition for training places in veterinary practice, so it can be difficult for non-experienced members of staff to get their foot on the ladder. We recommend that anyone wanting to get involved in veterinary nursing gains some voluntary work experience in a veterinary practice or other animal related environments, such as a rescue centre, kennels or cattery. This will demonstrate a commitment to the work involved and the ability to succeed in your chosen career when opportunities arise.

Diploma in Veterinary Nursing – training

In order to complete the Diploma in Veterinary Nursing, you will either have to find a job as a student veterinary nurse (SVN) at a practice which has been approved to train student veterinary nurses or take a place on a full-time course at a Further Education College.

Training as an employee at a Veterinary Practice

The SVN is an employee of the veterinary practice and will work in the practice, attending college on a day release basis, one or two days a week or on a block release basis.

Training as a full-time student at a Further Education College

The SVN is a full-time student of the college. They will be required to attend college on a day release or block release basis. They will be allocated a training placement at an approved training centre to attend on day or block release from the college for the duration of the course.

Degree in Veterinary Nursing

There are a number of universities offering a degree in veterinary nursing. Each university sets the entrance qualifications for the courses run there and this information is available through the university website or via UCAS.

As with studying towards the Diploma in Veterinary Nursing, undergraduates will study the theory and some practical aspects of veterinary nursing at the university and they will spend a considerable portion of their time on placement gaining practical experience. Students can choose to study towards a foundation degree or an honours degree.

Training with Goddard Veterinary Group

We run a Veterinary Care Assistant, VCA course, at the Wanstead Veterinary Hospital for Goddard Veterinary Group staff and this is open to all our nursing assistants. All veterinary nurse trainees are required to complete the course before being eligible to apply for SVN training posts that may become available within the Group. We have an excellent track record for successfully training RVNs and support staff, with exceptionally high exam pass rates. One to one tutoring sessions, theory and practical revision courses are held in-house prior to exams in order to give our students the best possible chance of success.

Wanstead Veterinary Hospital has its own Training Room which is fully equipped and can accommodate up to twenty students. Students benefit from smaller class sizes and extra help from our highly experienced and knowledgeable Training Department staff, who are always on hand to assist SVNs, RVNs and support staff with training needs.

Veterinary Nurse Basic Job Description

Veterinary nursing, both as a qualified VN and as an SVN, involves the following:

  • Many practical nursing skills, such as taking blood samples, administering medication, providing a high level of care for patients, following infection control protocols, preparing for and assisting with surgical procedures.
  • Showing commitment to client care and offering knowledgeable advice on pet health and welfare.
  • Working with people and animals.
  • Working as a team member, in what can sometimes be a high-pressure environment.

Further Information

For further information please see the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons RCVS website; and the British Veterinary Nursing Association website:

RVN Careers with the Goddard Veterinary Group

At Goddard Veterinary Group, RVNs enjoy full support from their Regional Managers, veterinary surgeons and the Training Department.

Each hospital within the Goddard Veterinary Group has a Head Nurse who is a qualified and experienced RVN who oversees the nursing team. The Head Nurse is supported by RVNs, SVNs and nursing assistants.

Each of our branches has a dedicated nursing team and many of our nurses have become SVNs or RVNs, having initially started as nursing assistants and been offered the chance to gain further qualifications.

There is plenty of opportunity for career progression within the Group – as well as providing a supportive and experienced management structure, our RVNs also have the opportunity to acquire experience in their role which can eventually lead to managerial positions and further career development. They also have the opportunity to get involved with training the next generation of nurses as mentors for VCA students or Clinical Coaches for SVNs.

For further information on returning to the profession after a career break please click below:

For further information on overseas qualified VNs please click below:

If you are interested in a career with Goddard Veterinary Group please click here to see our current vacancies.