The Role of a Veterinary Nurse: Job Description

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There is a growing awareness that veterinary nurses (VN) are a key part of the treatment of animals. For VNs to become recognized and well-respected careers, it has been a long process. Invariably, the major factors were the value of the animal or the income of the owner. This essay will illustrate how the Veterinary nursing has changed overdue time to the implementation of certain laws, the importance of the code of conduct, and how nursing can be applied to each patient's individual needs.

JH Stelle, a veterinary scientist wrote that “nursing requires, strict attention to the animal’s comfort and wellbeing in matters of warmth, quietude, cleanliness, pure air and diet”. VNs have evolved much further and have been regulated by the Royal College of Animal Welfare since 1961 when they were first referred to as Animal Nursing Auxiliaries. The first Animal Nursing Auxiliary (ANA) teaching scheme was approved by the RCVS. The British Veterinary Nursing Association was founded in 1965. The term veterinary nurse was first used in 1984. In 1991, the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 was revised, and the position of the nurse was officially recognized. Since then, the veterinary nurse has changed considerably which has contributed to the creation of the Registry of Veterinary Nurses 2007. The RCVS has given the discipline with rules and guidance on practice and ethics. The Royal Charter was given to the RCVS in 2015. Which has brought professional respect to the veterinary nursing profession and has confirmed the RCVS as its regulator.

The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 provides for the administration of the veterinary profession, the registration of veterinary nurses and surgeons, the supervision of technical and skilled training, and the cancellation or revocation of registration in cases of incompetence and similar purposes. The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 Order 2002 provides that veterinary surgeons can guide registered or student veterinary nurses employed by them to conduct limited veterinary surgery. Illustrating that they have a greater responsibility than just caring for the patient. The privilege of giving any medical treatment or carrying out minor surgery, not involving entry into a body cavity, is given to Registered veterinary nurses under the direction of their veterinary surgeon employer to animals under their employer's care. The directing veterinary surgeon must be satisfied that the veterinary nurse is qualified to carry out the medical treatment or minor surgery. In 2014 a study was carried out by the RCVS on over 5,000 nurses, the results came back that even though they are qualified to undertake a minor surgery it is the treatment they do the least.

Veterinary Nurse Conduct and Discipline Rules 2014 is in place to protect the public interest and to safeguard animal health and welfare. While in practice the VN must follow the code of conduct by maintaining the five principles of practice these include professional competence, honesty, integrity, independence and impartially, client confidentiality and trust, and professional accountability. The veterinary nursing disciplinary committee is the RCVS equivalent of a court where charges are heard against a registered nurse alleging if he or she is guilty of serious professional misconduct. Each VN Disciplinary Committee shall consist of at least one person from the following categories: veterinary surgeons registered veterinary nurses, and lay persons (not currently nor have been veterinary surgeons or veterinary nurses).

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The welfare of all protected animals is provided for under the Animal Health and Welfare Scotland (Act) 2006. The act places a duty of care on pet owners and others responsible for animals to ensure that the welfare needs of their animals are met. While carrying out pre and post treatment care it is the veterinary nurses role to ensure the 5 needs and freedoms are met. The 5 freedoms have been the basis of animal welfare since 1960 it was previously known as Abandonment of Animals Act 1960. It has been proved that animals are sentient beings and bringing a welfare act into place it protects the animals.

According to RCVS, the code of professional conduct for veterinary nurses outlines that the animal’s health and welfare are the RVN or SN priority. Not only do they have a responsibility to their patients but must be open and honest with clients and respect their needs, provide appropriate information to clients about the practice. Nurses should utilize the Glasgow Pain Scale, this work should coincide with open-ended conversations with the patient’s owner, therefore instilling confidence in the owner to rest assured the practice is competent. The Glasgow pain scale was developed to measure minor pain in dogs. This can be used in conjunction with care plans, allowing better treatment for the dog.

The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) was implemented in the UK on 25th May 2018, replacing the existing Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). GDPR is very important for both VN and clients as it strengthens rights for both parties. not complying with the GDPR could lead to financial penalties. 

While in practice VN will use many models of care plans, they had once studied to create individual care plans pre and post-treatment, allowing them to advance their professional role and meet individual needs. line with published models a care plan is proving to be an effective way to strength the bond between all parties involved with the patient. The care plan is designed to assess the patient's needs and how as a veterinary team they can be met. Although there is an excess amount of documentation it seems to be the most effective. The first veterinary model of nursing is the Ability Model. This is also the most common care plan used in practice. An assessment is taken if the animal is being admitted. Certain questions would be asked to ensure that the VN has an adequate amount of information to draw up a care plan to meet their individual needs. The information gathered is based on the 10 abilities of the animal. The assessment should be carried out with influencing factors in mind such as, life stage of the animal, health issues and breed, making a more individualised plan. The next stage of the assessment is finding out what the patient can or cannot do, this is achieved through the 10 abilities checklist from the model. These abilities are, eating, drinking, urinating, defecating, breathing normally, maintaining body temperature, grooming, cleaning itself, mobilizing adequately, and expressing normal behavior. When completing the care plan, it is important to know what the nursing intervention is and how often or how much is required. The decision on the intervention is driven by the goal to be achieved, which is important to validate the nursing decision made and to measure the outcomes of the intervention. The assessment phase should be carried out regularly, this way any improvement can be noted, adjusting the plan as needed.

Successful patient care relies on individual staff, working together effectively. Differences must be set aside with the patient’s best interest at heart. Inefficient teamwork at best slows down the practice, it may even impact the treatment of the animal. e.g. not marking a patient with the right name may result in incorrect treatment or not expressing an animal is allergic to certain medications. One of the steps to good collaboration is that everybody interacts with understanding and respect. The team sets common goals, and they support each other to move through them, and this is achieved by a care plan. A key role a VN will undertake is making sure owners have a thorough knowledge of the dangers and complications e.g., spinal anesthesia can lead to paralysis or, in extreme cases, general anesthesia can lead to death. This should be done as a verbal and written explanation. In addition, the 'clear and correct comprehensive clinical and client records' must be maintained. This not only ensures the animal is provided with the best possible treatment but also offers an aspect of protection if things go wrong. Different forms of documents include medical records, audits, and reports under consideration or claims.

In conclusion, the VN 's position is becoming a more valued profession, concentrating on maintaining a high level of animal care when treating a patient as an individual and fulfilling their needs achieved through personalised care plans. They must work efficiently with a close-knit team where communication is at the heart. The various laws put in place help keep them and their consumers safe. Having a great deal of responsibility comes with being placed under a tough disciplinary system, alongside the Code of Professional Conduct, which only produces a better outcome for the patients. They undertake various positions, including serving in reception and listening to concerned owners. They are critical in supplying the owner with thorough knowledge of post-treatment care and many other topics. The future for RVN is promising. The VN Futures scheme developed by the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) today identified a range of issues in veterinary nursing. These include the development of a sustainable workforce, organised and satisfying career pathways, and a positive, resilient, safe and well-supported workforce, which have created a range of goals for the future.

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