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Protecting the title ‘Veterinary Nurse’ – the fight continues

Recently the UK Government and Parliament rejected the initial petition to protect the title ‘veterinary nurse’ (VN).

The main points on which it based the rejection are:

  1. Existing laws sufficiently safeguard the health and welfare of animals receiving veterinary treatment
  2. The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 and the Supplemental Charter 2015 of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) requires the Veterinary Surgeon to oversee any treatment carried out by the veterinary nurse
  3. Veterinary Surgeons (which is a protected title) should be satisfied the VN is qualified
  4. VNs must be registered with the RCVS, and this carries with it sufficient professional responsibilities.
  5. The RCVS register of veterinary nurses is available to any member of the public wishing to satisfy themselves of the qualifications of a VN

The Government suggests criminalisation of anyone using the title Veterinary Nurse, who isn’t a Registered Veterinary Nurse is ‘harsh’ and instead Practices should be encouraged to only use the title Veterinary Nurse when referring to those animal carers who are trained, qualified and registered with RCVS.

Whilst the Government is correct in as much as there are safeguards in place which ensure a minimum standard of care for animals, and a standard of professional responsibility for RVNs, they have failed to grasp two key issues: firstly, the role of a Veterinary Nurse is as distinct from that of an animal health care assistant and as intrinsic to the health of the animals in their care as that of a Nurse involved in the care and treatment of human patients. Secondly, the protection of this title recognises and respects the Veterinary Nurse’s position within the animal health care system.

Currently, a person could enter a veterinary practice as an untrained assistant and learn veterinary nursing techniques through years of interaction, practice and treatment of patients. In many cases they are as dedicated as RVNs and their knowledge may become far reaching. However, without pursuing either a degree in Veterinary Nursing or regulated Vocational Training some basics may be overlooked, basics which may at some point impact the health and wellbeing of a patient.

In answer to point 5: while the register of nurses is available to the public, many people are simply unaware of the distinction between an RVN and someone calling themselves a veterinary nurse and would not think to look for such a list. They simply want the reassurance their pet is in qualified hands and assume a vet nurse must be qualified in order to use that title.

As technologies within animal healthcare advance and responsibilities advance, RNVs will become increasingly required to function without the ‘parental oversight’ of Veterinary Surgeons and in many cases they already do. Indeed, such restrictions on the ability of RVNs to exercise their training and experience on their own recognisance could be seen as marginalising their abilities and the value they add to the animal healthcare system.

RVNs work hard to attain their title and work harder to maintain their skills through continued professional development: protecting their title shows respect for their knowledge, their commitment and their dedication to their vocation.

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