Vet Futures: How can we increase the number of VNs?
8 September 2015
‘Where are all the veterinary nurses?’ is the opening gambit of this month's Vet Futures guest blog, which examines the current undersupply of veterinary nurses in the industry and looks at what more can be done to increase the number of students and retain experienced nurses.
The blog was written for the joint RCVS and BVA Vet Futures project, which aims to help the professions prepare for and shape their futures, by Laura Kidd, a veterinary surgeon, VN lecturer and clinical skills tutor for veterinary students.
In the blog she argues that, despite year-on-year increases in the number of veterinary nurses, this seems to be insufficient to meet demand and that, furthermore, there is a trend towards people leaving the profession relatively early, with the average age being just over 30.
“Identifying the reasons for VNs leaving the profession at a young age and addressing these, is one potential way of increasing VN numbers in the future,” she writes.
She argues that poor pay, stress, not feeling rewarded or valued and perceived lack of career progression all contribute to people leaving the profession, although she welcomes initiatives from the BVNA, BVA, RCVS and others to increase the status of the profession, create more diverse career opportunities and improve the profession’s mental wellbeing.
However, she adds that “perhaps we may, reluctantly, have to accept that, for the time-being, veterinary nursing is a young profession with a high turnover.”
Should we be developing an additional VN training pathway which allows more students to demonstrate they have the required skills to provide high quality nursing to their patients?”
With this in mind she suggests that training more veterinary nurses will be the key to increasing the number of qualified members of the profession in the immediate future.
In order to do this she believes that more practices need to be supported to become RCVS-approved Training Practices offering clinical training and work experience for student veterinary nurses and that an alternative training pathway for veterinary nurses may need to be looked at.
She adds: “The entry requirements for the VN Diploma are relatively low, yet the qualification is academically demanding: the volume and depth of knowledge is considerable for the level and qualification and the requirement to demonstrate critical reflection through academic writing can be challenging.
“It is regrettable that some student veterinary nurses, who appear to have the qualities to be very good VNs, are lost to the profession, unable to pass awarding body exams.
"Should we be developing an additional VN training pathway which allows more students to demonstrate they have the required skills to provide high quality nursing to their patients?”
In response to her proposal, this month’s poll will ask visitors “Is there a need for another VN training option?”
Last month’s poll asked if vets always acted as animal welfare advocates. This was in response to an article by animal welfare expect Professor David Main in which he argues that the profession should do more to demonstrate its animal welfare credentials and introduce safeguards against excessive profit-seeking.
Although just 22 people took part in the poll, around two-thirds (68%) of them said that vets do not always act as animal welfare advocates.