Exemplary pass rate for equine diploma nurses

catherine luke VN
The Level 3 Diploma qualification, which was introduced in 2010, prepares veterinary nurses for professional registration on the RCVS Register of Veterinary Nurses and replaces the previous NVQs and VRQs in veterinary nursing. The qualification offers core training, with three option pathways – equine, small animal and mixed practice.

Recently, 90% of the equine diploma candidates passed their exams and were awarded the Level 3 Diploma – a pass rate that BEVA has described as exemplary. Libby Earle, head of veterinary nursing at the RCVS, commented: ‘This is a fantastic achievement and reflects the hard work and commitment of both the students and their tutors and clinical coaches.’

"90% of the equine diploma candidates passed their exams and were awarded the Level 3 Diploma"

The Level 3 Diploma programme has a common core that encompasses both small animal and equine disciplines, providing additional and transferable skills, while the equine pathway supports practical nursing knowledge in equine cases. It also allows successful candidates to explore a broader range of employment opportunities.

The format of the Level 3 Diploma allows students to demonstrate their expertise within the professional field of equine veterinary nursing, with comprehensive assignments and formative assessments using a range of questioning styles. ‘This stretches and challenges the students in their area of expertise and allows them to expand their practical skills through the Nursing Progress Log (NPL),’ explained Kathy Kissick, head of Veterinary Nursing and Farriery at Myerscough College. ‘The inclusion of basic equine handling skills as well allows them to excel and to share their expertise with their small animal peers and vice versa.’

Deidre Carson, a partner at Rossdales equine veterinary practice in Newmarket, said: ‘We would prefer to employ vet nurses who have taken the equine pathway. The qualification provides a thorough grounding in the specifics of equine nursing and gives VNs the necessary understanding and confidence to handle horses effectively. This makes equine pathway candidates a strong asset in our busy equine referral practice.’

VN in practic
Being qualified provides better long-term job options with possibilities to do an advanced diploma in nursing

Catherine Luke, Minster Veterinary Practice in York, passed the Level 3 Equine Pathway Diploma last year and qualified as a nurse. She said: ‘I wanted to be proud of my career. Passing the diploma is an assurance of a level of quality needed to be a good equine nurse. The vets can rely on my knowledge and experience to provide quality nursing care. Being qualified also provides better long-term job options with possibilities to do the advanced diploma in nursing. My employers were very supportive throughout my study period and the practice is very proud to have two qualified equine veterinary nurses on its staff.’

A career as a veterinary nurse

The Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing is offered on either a full-time basis (leading to an honours degree) or apprenticeship-style, alongside a job in a veterinary practice.

Those interested in a part-time apprenticeship-style course first need to find employment within a training practice (TP) – a list of these is available on the RCVS website. Prospective students must be at least 17 years old, hold a minimum of five GCSEs at grade C or above (or equivalent qualifications), which must include English language, mathematics and at least one science subject.

It takes between two and three years to qualify, and time is split between learning theory at college and gaining practical experience in practice. Students are assessed throughout the programme through theory examinations, a work-based electronic progress log, college assignments and a final practical examination (the OSCE).

Course work

Training can be completed on a part-time basis, as long as students work a minimum of 15 hours per week in practice. They must complete at least 60 full-time weeks (or part-time equivalent) of work experience in a TP.

Students undertake a variety of different examinations and assessments:

  • RCVS MCQ (multiple choice questions) examinations
  • College-based examinations
  • College-based assignments
  • Work-based assessment (the progress log)
  • RCVS OSCE examination (practical examination).

The progress log is a record of the teaching, supervision and experience students receive in practice. It is a web-based electronic tool that is designed to record work-based clinical skills and is based on a set of ‘day one’ clinical skills that are expected of all qualified veterinary nurses when they join the RCVS VN Register.

Progress on the log is monitored by a nominated clinical coach within the practice who will be an experienced registered veterinary nurse or veterinary surgeon.

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