By Dr Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS
Veterinary nurses and vet techs are in high demand at the moment. Many practices around the world are facing a shortage of veterinary staff and are looking to recruit. It goes without saying that the veterinary industry as a whole is under pressure at the moment due to this staff shortage. However, there are also benefits to the current situation. Whether you’re a Qualified Registered Veterinary Nurse, an experienced veterinary technician or you’re looking to make a career move into nursing, the opportunities are out there for you.
How do veterinary nurses and vet techs compare around the world?
It’s important to keep in mind that the role of the veterinary nurse varies throughout the world. Aside from the fact that many nurses and vet techs working around the world may not have received formal training, there are also other differences. In the US, you might be referred to as a vet tech rather than a veterinary nurse. In Australia and New Zealand, your role as a veterinary nurse would be primarily to assist the vet through animal handling, husbandry, and anaesthetic monitoring. In the UK, your training and experience may lead you to take on more responsibility by drawing blood, administering medications, and performing minor procedures. However, with more veterinary nurses and vet techs considering travelling overseas, and more training available, the worldwide roles are gradually beginning to merge. Before you take on an overseas vet nursing job, it’s sensible to find out your job description to check it matches the role you would anticipate.
Which countries have a shortage of veterinary nurses?
If you’re UK based and not wanting to travel, rest assured that there’s a nationwide shortage of veterinary nurses in Britain at the moment. This means that you should be able to get a job in your preferred location doing the hours and the role that suits you. If you’re not from the UK but you’re considering nursing here, opportunities are abundant. Be aware, though, that you may need to take on extra training to have a comparative role.
The Republic of Ireland isn’t immune from the veterinary staff shortage either. With many new practices opening in recent years, there are plenty of employment opportunities for veterinary nurses. If beautiful landscapes, lots of greenery, and a staggering coastline appeal to you, why not look into a nursing job in Ireland?
Australia and New Zealand
There’s a huge shortage of veterinary nurses in Australia and New Zealand, and nurses are in high demand in most regions. UK Registered Veterinary Nurses are particularly desirable, as are those who are experienced and formally trained. It’s worth being aware that most practices in these countries don’t offer a ‘locum package’ with accommodation and transport provided, but there’s always scope to ask. If you’re not yet qualified, but you’d like to train as a veterinary nurse and have your eye on Australia as a permanent or temporary home, there are suitable options too. There are some training facilities in Australia that offer a vet nursing training program. Once completed, the additional undertaking of the OSCE examinations in the UK will make students fully qualified.
In 2019 there were only two vet techs per veterinarian, and this situation has got worse. In addition, only around one-third of these vet techs were credentialed, with some having received very little formal training. Of course, while it’s desirable to have credentialed staff, if there are no trained staff available then the workforce has to be maintained by whatever means possible. This leaves experienced or qualified veterinary nurses from overseas in high demand. So, if you’re considering moving across the pond, your help will be well received.
Most worldwide countries are experiencing veterinary staff shortages, so if you’ve got a country in mind, it’s worth reaching out to see if they have veterinary nursing roles to suit you.
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What do you need to know if you’re considering relocating?
It’s a big decision to leave your home country, even if it’s just for a few months or a year. If you’re planning on taking the plunge and finding work abroad, there are a few things you need to find out about:
Bear in mind that different countries and even different veterinary practices will have different expectations when it comes to their nurses. If you’re used to doing a lot and have a wide range of experience, you might find yourself feeling bored or undervalued in a role that is primarily animal handling and husbandry. On the other hand, if you find yourself in a role that’s more demanding than you expected, you might feel stressed or under pressure.
As previously mentioned, job roles, qualifications, and training are variable. It’s a good idea to find out if your current qualifications, training, and experience are directly comparable to those in the country you will be working. Otherwise, you might have to do some additional study or examinations.
You must find out the visa requirements for living and working in your chosen country. If you have a job lined up prior to travelling, the practice may be able to help organise your visa application and any other documentation you need.
The current worldwide shortage of veterinary nurses and vet techs is a desperate situation in a lot of ways. Veterinary staff are feeling exhausted and stressed, and working hours are becoming longer. However, it’s not all bad news because there’s never been a better time to consider a career move. So, if your dream nursing job is overseas, why not start looking today?
Don’t forget to check out our other Vet Nurse/Vet Tech Articles: