Ways of addressing the shortage of veterinary nurses in the UK have been examined in an online article written by a vet and VN lecturer.

There are problem retaining experienced veterinary nurses in the profession, with the average age being just over 30.

“Where are all the veterinary nurses?” is the opening gambit of the Vet Futures guest blog, written by vet Laura Kidd, a VN tutor with Vets Now and a clinical skills teaching fellow at the University of Edinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

In it, she considers what more can be done to increase the number of students and retain experienced nurses.

She says, despite year on year increases in the number of veterinary nurses, this seems to be insufficient to meet demand and there is a trend towards people leaving the profession relatively early, with the average age being just older than 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.

The blog was written for the joint Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and British Veterinary Association (BVA) Vet Futures project, which aims to help the professions prepare for and shape their futures.

Mrs Kidd argues 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 British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), BVA, RCVS and others to increase the status of the profession, create more diverse career opportunities and improve the profession’s mental well-being.

However, she adds “perhaps we may, reluctantly, have to accept that, for the time being, veterinary nursing is a young profession with a high turnover”.

With this in mind, she suggests training more VNs will be the key to increasing the number of qualified profession members in the immediate future.

To do this, she believes more practices need to be supported to become RCVS-approved training practices offering clinical training and work experience for student VNs and that an alternative training pathway for VNs may need to be looked at.

In response to her proposal, this month’s poll will ask visitors “Is there a need for another VN training option?”

To read the blog, leave a comment and take part in the poll, visit www.vetfutures.org.uk/discuss

  • Last month’s poll asked whether vets always acted as animal welfare advocates. This was in response to an article by animal welfare expert David Main, in which he argued the profession should do more to demonstrate its animal welfare credentials and introduce safeguards against excessive profit seeking. Although 22 people took part in the poll, 68% of them said vets did not always act as animal welfare advocates.
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