All vets know the incalculable value of well trained nurses. They are multi-skilled, handing you the ideal piece of equipment just as you decide you need it one minute and putting concerned clients at their ease the next.
Current veterinary nursing education options
While vets have long been required to have a minimum of a Bachelor degree and many continue to further study, the vast majority of veterinary nurses studying in Victoria achieve the national qualification of Certificate IV, with a small percentage continuing their education to Diploma level, the highest level available to them. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many practices in Victoria
have been seeking to employ more highly qualified nurses from elsewhere, including from the UK, where 15 institutions offer higher degrees in vet nursing. The University of Queensland and Massey University currently offer the only higher degrees in Veterinary Nursing available in Australasia.
A new Associate Degree in Veterinary Nursing
That’s about to change. From 2015 a two-year full-time Associate Degree in Veterinary Nursing will be available at Melbourne Polytechnic (formerly NMIT). The Associate Degree, designed by Dr Meg Dietze after widespread industry consultation, will give students a broader education than that available through the Certificate IV, including topics such as human and facility management and evidence-based practice. Experienced veterinary nurses are offered an articulation pathway into the Associate Degree with nurses holding a General Diploma eligible for block credit for the first year of the degree.
The newly-built facilities at the Epping campus will give students a chance to develop skills in a simulated environment before undertaking clinical placement at Lort Smith Animal Hospital, where they will be exposed to a large case load and have their learning supported by vets and nurses trained as clinical coaching associates. At the end of the course they will spend six months working in a variety of veterinary industry settings, both clinical and other areas of interest. Other innovative teaching strategies to be adopted include adaptation of a human nursing system for assessing clinical skill development (outlined in this paper presented at the AVA conference in 2013) and the use of a fictional clinic as a teaching tool. The clinic has been populated with staff and clients, each with their own personality, and patients with a range of common health issues. This will facilitate teaching skills ranging from client and professional communication to case management.
Along with the new Bachelor of Veterinary Technology offered by Charles Sturt University, it is fantastic to see the options for professional development for veterinary nurses expanding so rapidly. Having been involved in writing of some of the first year teaching materials for the Associate Degree at Melbourne Polytechnic, it’s wonderful to see all the hard work put into the development come to fruition. I know this course will give its students a fantastic beginning to their veterinary nursing career and I am sure they will go on to become valuable members of the profession.