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Veterinary Nursing in South Africa - by Caitlynn Reid DVN South Africa Qualified, RVN

My name is Caitlynn Reid. I have been qualified for over 9 years as a Veterinary nurse and started my journey all the way back home, in South Africa. This is a little insight into the journey of becoming a Veterinary Nurse in South Africa.

In South Africa, we only have one Veterinary University, which is called Onderstepoort. Due to this, there are only a few spots to fill each year for new nursing students. When I applied there were only 50 spaces – out of the whole country!

In order to apply for the Veterinary Nursing Diploma, you had to have taken Maths, Biology and Science in High School. You also need some sort of exposure to the Veterinary world – either by working or volunteering at a Veterinary practice or welfare organisation.

What I did was actually job shadow a Vet for a school project and then found out that there was another aspect in the practice that I was totally unaware of – the Nursing and care of the patients. I then applied to work as a receptionist to get more insight into Veterinary and did this for 2 years whilst I was still at school. This helped aid me in my application to being a Veterinary nurse.

Our Diploma is a 2-year course. Your first 2 months consists of lectures in all areas of nursing which was accompanied by getting familiar with the university as well as the Veterinary Hospital on campus.

The first year, as a Student nurse, you are constantly in lectures but are thrown into practical work quite quickly. You are started on a few shifts in hospital where, depending on what department you are in, you ‘shadow’ the Registered nurses and get a feel of what you do on a daily basis. Not only that but the final year student nurses are also your mentors, so you grow a relationship with them and they help you threw the different clinics you are rota’d onto as well as the University life on campus.

At the end of your first year, you write theory exams and perform practical exams. These are formulated around all subjects you had lectures on during the year.

In your final year you take on full working shifts at the hospital in all areas such as Outpatients, Isolation ward, ICU etc. During this time, you are also doing lectures and practical's that help guide you through your hospital rotation. You then also have the Final year Vet students starting their hospital rotations. Due to the Nurses having 2 years of Hospital experience under their belt, we can help mentor the Vet students through the hospital and each clinic. In this year you also do rotations through the ‘Rural’ clinics – this is where you doing Outreach programs and Vaccination runs in areas that may not have access to Veterinary care. You have to get a certain number of hours in this before the end of the year as it counts towards your community service.

At the end of this year, you perform multiple practical's that span over all the subject areas you have covered over the last two years. You then have written and MCQ’s exams for all subjects covered in the nursing course as well.

So, after 2 amazing years of hard work, multi-tasking and studying you are now a Qualified Veterinary Nurse! You are then able to dive into any job vacancy that best suits you.

In the UK, nurses are responsible for biosecurity, patient nursing and wellbeing. There are a lot more Nurses in UK practices compared to South Africa. In South Africa we have fewer nurses, and our main responsibility is theatre and inpatient nursing and Kennel hands have responsibility for biosecurity, patient handling and wellbeing.

In the UK, you can further progress your veterinary nursing career by completing a graduate or post graduate certificate in a specialised area of interest.

There are a lot of differences in the making a Vet Nurse in both countries but one thing I have learnt from both is that the love and passion for the care of all animals is equally as important.

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