What is an RVN?

It’s common for people to assume that there are only a few roles within a veterinary practice, usually a lead vet, a surgeon and several veterinary nurses. Whilst these are key roles, multiple others help to make up a practice, including that of an RVN.

Many choose to train to become a registered veterinary nurse (RVN) as it opens numerous doors for career progression. This blog delves deeper into the meaning of the role and explores the requirements and typical services that an RVN provides. 

What is a Registered Veterinary Nurse?

Within the veterinary profession, the term RVN is an abbreviation for Registered Veterinary Nurse.

Registered veterinary nurses undertake an accredited qualification which is accredited by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Until the qualification is achieved, students are often referred to as SVNs (Student Veterinary Nurse). 

The register began in 2007 and was the first action toward regulating the veterinary nurse profession. It was brought in and managed by the RCVS so that instead of having a list for veterinary nurses and another for registered veterinary nurses, there is now just one register for all. 

Becoming a qualified RVN requires SVNs to complete at least 15 hours of continuous professional training within a year. The qualification usually takes around 2-3 years to complete, during which time exams and specialist training procedures are undertaken.

Once completed, veterinary nurses then become registered which means that they are independently governed and gain professional accountability, similar to a veterinary surgeon.

What do Veterinary Nurses Do? 

The job of a veterinary nurse can vary from day to day, as they hold many responsibilities within their job role. Veterinary nurses tend to work under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon, to ensure constant assistance with the care and treatment of patients. 

The job of a veterinary nurse has plenty of variety, as they can go from assisting with major surgeries to playing with and grooming pets that are staying overnight at the practice. Similar to human nursing, veterinary nurses carry out tasks depending on where additional help is needed, which can include assisting the surgeon, laboratory work, ultrasounds, basic examinations and general organisation and upkeep of a veterinary practice.

As well as the tasks described above, the below responsibilities may also be involved in a job as an RVN.

Pet Owner Education

Veterinary nurses help to educate pet owners on the proper care for their pets to ensure that when they go home, they are fully equipped with key information. Pet owner education may involve giving tips and advice for dental care, weight management, feed guidelines, post-op care and other general information. 

This is an essential role within veterinary nursing as it ensures that once the animal leaves the vet they remain well cared for. It is also helpful to pet owners to ensure that they can provide proper care for their pets. 

Women and Cat

Nursing Care

As mentioned above, RVNs are required to carry out general care for the animals during their time at the vet. 

RVNs carry out all the essential care for post-op patients, as well as general day to day-care such as feeding and exercising. They also work closely with veterinary surgeons to ensure that they are fully equipped to carry out their roles and responsibilities effectively. 

Laboratory Testing and Diagnosing

Often veterinary nurses work with laboratory tests and provide these to assist the veterinarian. RVNs are also trained to perform scans and x-rays which can be vital for the early stages of diagnosing the patient. 

Anaesthesia and Surgical Nursing

RVNs support surgical procedures. After going through extensive training, vet nurses can work with anaesthesia and are required to recognise any potential problems that the anaesthesia may cause during operations. 

Under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon, a nurse can legally perform minor surgical procedures, which may include stitching of wounds and dental work. 

Veterinary Nurse Management: 

Some veterinary nurses choose to partake in other training such as team management. They often handle the day-to-day running of the practice as well as managing staff, dealing with customers and ensuring that the best care is delivered to patients

Within these roles, there are many other days to day jobs that a veterinary nurse may perform. As vital members of the team, they are highly respected and valued for their hard work and dedication to the care of animals. 

Puppy in Vets

Responsibilities of an RVN

Registered Veterinary Nurses are responsible for several things within a practice and will have plenty of tasks that vary on a day-to-day basis. Some typical duties include;

  • Administering vaccinations 
  • Microchipping household pets 
  • Taking blood and other fluid samples
  • Inserting intravenous cannulas
  • Administering medication 
  • Monitoring anaesthesia
  • Delivering telephone and face to face support and guidance to pet owners 
  • Team management
  • Tidying and cleaning the practice 

What Qualifications Do You Need to be a Veterinary Nurse?

As mentioned above, you will need to become an RVN and be on the register for the RCVS to become a vet nurse. There are a few different options when it comes to gaining the qualifications required to do this. 


You will first need at least five GCSEs or equivalent qualifications in grades A* to C. Three of these will need to be English, Maths and Science.

RCVS Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing:

To become a qualified veterinary nurse, you will need to gain the RCVS Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing. You can either do this as a full-time student or as an apprentice. 

The Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing takes around 2 to 3 years to complete, depending on which study pathway you choose. 

If you choose to study full-time for your qualification, you will also need to complete the required hours working within a vet practice alongside studying. Many students do this during the holidays, so it’s quite an intense period of studying.

When working as an apprentice, you can complete your qualification on the job, working within a practice as a student veterinary nurse.

Work Experience

Although official qualifications are required to become an RVN, you are required to complete a minimum number of hours of work experience to help you learn the ins and outs of the role and complete the diploma. 

When searching for a practice to complete your mandatory work experience hours, you’ll need to choose somewhere that has been registered and approved by the College of Veterinary Surgeons. The officially approved list of veterinary practices is a great place to start.

When working within a practice, you can oversee and observe the day to day operations of the industry as well as the care that is required for patients. Being in this environment allows you to get a feel for the job and see what is needed to become an RVN.

Vet Surgery Sign

Skills Needed to Become an RVN

Alongside qualifications and work experience, some vital skills are needed when becoming an RVN. Some of the most important qualities that will benefit you in the role include:

  • Being able to communicate effectively with both the veterinary team and pet owners
  • A strong team player is needed when working as an RVN, as you are an essential part of the team and are often needed to assist others 
  • The ability to use initiative and work independently is important when you have to make difficult decisions

Remaining calm and composed in stressful situations is another vital skill to have as a Registered Veterinary Nurse

What to Expect as an RVN

As the job of a registered veterinary nurse can vary, it is hard to fully anticipate what to expect when in this role. 

RVNs who choose to work within a veterinary hospital, which is usually open 24 hours, can expect to work different shifts and be in a busier environment than those in local practices. Surgeries are usually carried out in hospitals, as well as other routine appointments. 

Responsibilities of the role could vary from assisting in surgery to walking and feeding the inpatients. As key members of the veterinary team, nurses are involved in most aspects of the hospital and tend to assist surgeons in their day to day work. 

When working in a smaller 9-5 veterinary practice, you can expect a slightly slower pace as an RVN. Although the role is still as vital and requires a lot of the same day-to-day tasks, you will find that the role requires fewer unsociable hours and rarely any overnight stays. 

Whether you choose to become an RVN in a veterinary practice or a hospital, will depend on the sort of pace you are looking for from your job. Both positions provide an extremely rewarding career. 

Salary of an RVN

The salary of an RVN can vary depending on your level of training and experience. Some veterinary nurses continue to do other professional qualifications, which can make them specialists within their field. 

The average salary for a registered veterinary nurse in the UK is between £17,000 to £26,000, which will depend on roles and responsibilities, as well as any additional training or team management obligations. 

Typical Working Hours of an RVN

Working as a registered veterinary nurse can be challenging at times, as it may require some unsociable hours and weekend shifts. As a full-time RVN, you will work between 39 to 49 hours a week, plus any extra overtime that may be required for the care of patients. 

Some veterinary nurses also work overnight shifts, but this will depend on the type of practice as only some are open 24 hours.

Career Prospects as an RVN

There are several different career paths you can take as a registered veterinary nurse, many of which are incredibly rewarding roles. 

As an RVN, you have the option to specialise in specific areas of nursing such as ward care, diagnostics, anaesthesia, and rehabilitation. There are also progressive options available to those who are looking to be in more of a managerial role. 

Many RVNs choose to use their time outside of work to gain extra qualifications which will help them to progress in the veterinary industry. These could be in teaching veterinary nursing or even research opportunities within veterinary medicine. 

Caring for animals and being part of their recovery is just one area of nursing that can be incredibly satisfying. No matter which way you choose to progress in your career, working as an RVN makes for a great progressive career choice and will also challenge and test you.


We hope that after reading this you are now fully aware of what an RVN is, how to become a vet nurse and all that is involved in working in this industry.

If you are looking to pursue a career in the veterinary industry, Vet Finders is a specialist recruitment agency that offers a wealth of specialist knowledge to facilitate your job search. Get in touch and find out more about the different kinds of roles and support that Vet Finders provide.

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