Ratification Date: 01 Mar 2020
All persons using the title ‘Veterinary Nurse’ must possess veterinary nurse qualifications and conform to standards appropriate to professional veterinary practice.
The standards should be subject to regular review by a national professional body.
The Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia (VNCA) and their Australian Veterinary Nurses and Technicians (AVNAT) Registration Scheme are recognised and supported by the Australian Veterinary Association.
Veterinary nurses are an integral part of modern veterinary practice. The registration, quality training, and continuing professional development of veterinary nurses are essential components of practice.
Veterinary nurses, under the direction, supervision and responsibility of veterinarians, provide nursing care to sick animals, and communicate with, and educate owners on the health care of their animals. The veterinary nurse also provides support to the veterinarian with technical work, surgical and peri-operative procedures, medical procedures, diagnostic testing and critical care. The veterinary profession benefits greatly when working as a team with appropriately educated and trained veterinary nurses.
The national qualification for veterinary nurses is presently the vocational Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing. The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) policy advocates for a high-quality outcome for all students of veterinary nursing in Australia, irrespective of where they live, where they are trained, or where they are employed.
This outcome should be of an international standard and take into consideration the specific work, health and safety aspects of the veterinary workplace. All students commencing the vocational Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing should have guaranteed access to a veterinary workplace and ideally should be employed. The AVA, representing the employers of veterinary nurses and technicians, has had, and continues to advocate for, continued input into the development of training packages relevant to veterinary nursing, and university curricula for veterinary technicians.
The terms, ‘Veterinary Nurse’ and ‘Veterinary Technician’, are presently becoming internationally interchangeable. Under current Australian legislation there is no consistent definition of ‘veterinary nurse’. The Western Australian Veterinary Surgeons Act, 1960 defines ‘veterinary nurse’ as a person authorised to perform prescribed veterinary services set out in the Veterinary Surgeons Regulations 1979. The Queensland Veterinary Surgeons Act, 1936 includes a definition of ‘animal nurse’, though no prescribed duties.
Outside of Western Australia, there is no regulation or statutory code of conduct, and no requirement to maintain currency and fitness to practice within veterinary nursing. The AVA supports the VNCA’s stated position that unqualified and unregulated veterinary support staff potentially expose the public and animal patients to harm, and increase liability for veterinary practices.1 Mandatory professional registration for veterinary nurses would bring rights and responsibilities, as well as increasing professionalism—to the benefit of the veterinary profession and the public it serves.
The Australian Veterinary Nurses and Technicians (AVNAT) Voluntary Registration Scheme was set up by the VNCA. By creating the AVNAT Registration Scheme, the VNCA has established a self-regulation program, which will set standards for the professional practice of veterinary nurses across Australia. This will complement the Accredited Veterinary Nurse Scheme (AVN) which was set up with the support of the National Industry Advisory Group for Veterinary Nursing and the AVA, to recognise excellence in Veterinary Nursing.
The ongoing advances in veterinary nursing knowledge and skills, including the work, health and safety requirements of the role, necessitate, in the public interest, that the title ‘Veterinary Nurse’ must be restricted to those who are suitably qualified and accepted into the AVNAT Voluntary Registration Scheme. These qualifications are also required to be eligible for membership of the VNCA.
Other relevant policies and position statements
- Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia 2019, Quality practice through standards and learning: Australian Veterinary Nurses and Technicians (AVNAT) Registration Scheme commencing 1 April 2019, viewed 25 March 2019,
- New Zealand Veterinary Nursing Association 2019, nzvna.org.nz Accessed June 2019
- American Veterinary Medical Association 2019, AVMA policy on Veterinary technicians. avma.org/KB/policies Accessed June 2019
- AVA Policy Regulation of Animal Health Service Providers.
To advocate for, and support the registration of, veterinary nurses.
Ratification date: March 2020