Are you thinking of a new career in Veterinary Nursing?

by Angela Dacombe, VN

I decided two years ago to follow my dream of becoming a Veterinary Nurse. I had been working for 14 years as a receptionist and decided I needed a change. I wanted a job where I could work and care for animals as they were my passion. Part time was the best option for me, as I still had to work while studying and be a mum to my school age son. This involved taking the first step and applying for a place in The National Certificate in Animal Care course at CPIT (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology). See the CPIT website for further information on how to apply and what is required before applying to get onto the course. (

I chose to do the part time one year night classes. Other options included studying one semester full-time. By doing The National Certificate in Animal Care part time, this enables you to carry on the following year, provided you are accepted and have passed Animal Care, in doing The National Certificate in Veterinary Nursing part time. Another option for The National Certificate in Veterinary Nursing is one year studying full time. This incorporates Animal Care and Veterinary Nursing all in one year. However, if you choose to only do The National Certificate in Animal Care, this can open careers in animal related jobs including working in boarding facilities, wildlife parks and zoos, pet shops, animal welfare organisations etc.

The Animal Care course content includes the handling and care of cats, dogs, rodents and rabbits. It also includes topics such as animal welfare and ethics, parturition and care of newborn dogs and cats, first aid and transport of injured animals, clinical examinations of cats and dogs, hygiene and health and safety, zoonoses, behaviour, anatomy and physiology etc. The tutors are wonderful people and are there to help you succeed in every way possible, but you still need to make a commitment to putting in the effort and hard work. During the year there are exams to study for and assignments to complete. The course is made up of both theory and practical elements which made it very interesting for me. We had a workbook of practical tasks to do during the year and also complete 60 hours of animal handling and animal related work outside course hours. I thoroughly enjoyed this course and recommend it to anyone who enjoys working with animals and wants to learn more about their care.

On completion of Animal Care in 2009, I then applied for The National Certificate in Veterinary Nursing- Graduate Pathway course for 2010. As there were many people applying and only limited places, there was an interview process, and I was lucky enough to be chosen for the 2010 part time course intake. This course was thoroughly interesting and included practical and theory content. There are also assignments and exams to study for, both theory and practical. We had to complete 240 hours of practical work experience at vet clinics throughout the year of our course time.

Course content includes care of caged birds and fish, surgical nursing, assisting a vet with surgery, monitoring anaesthetics, care and recovery of patients after surgery, fluid therapy, administering drugs, clinical nursing, radiography and developing of x-rays, care of hospitalised patients, laboratory procedures, preparing samples for dispatch, selling skills, reception, admitting and discharging patients, communication, artificial insemination etc. Once again the tutors are great people and have your best interests at heart. The Straven Road Veterinary Centre is the training facility during the year for surgical sessions and end of year practical assessments which are taken by Julie Hutt, Dr. Linda Sorensen, Dr. Fiona Richardson and Barbara Eddy. Tutorials are also run there by vet nurse Tania Fernandez. They are all extremely knowledgeable in their fields and have great experience and teaching skills.

I was lucky enough to get a job working with The Straven Road Veterinary Centre in September 2010, having nearly completed the course and being recommended by my tutor to apply for the job. I absolutely love this job and the people I work with. It is very rewarding and I also love the variety it entails. I learnt so much during my two years study, met some wonderful people and made some great friends. I was so glad I pushed myself into going back to study because now I am in a job I really enjoy.

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Tania and Barb, two of our talented veterinary nurses