Welcome to RCVS Awards - a recognised awarding organisation of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

How to become a Training Practice

The information provided below intends to answer any questions veterinary practices might have about becoming a Training Practice (TP). 

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Why should I train a veterinary nursing student?

To clients, the supportive care of their sick animal is important. Expert and sensitive support is therefore a key aspect of developing and retaining client loyalty to a practice. 

Many young people are interested in pursuing a career in animal health. Veterinary nursing offers a variety of different career pathways, although most qualified veterinary nurses elect to remain in general practice. Student veterinary nurses are usually highly motivated and keen both to offer a high standard of care for patients in the practice and to progress in their careers. 

By offering training you will benefit directly from the student nurse's contribution to your practice either as an employee or as a clinical placement from their college or university. The provision of VN training will also encourage your practice staff to keep up-to-date with relevant knowledge and skills which must be passed on to your student. 

Qualified nurses are keen to gain experience in training practices and to take part in VN training. Once qualified, your trainee may remain with you to consolidate their experience and help develop veterinary nursing services within the practice. 

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What different training routes are there?

Veterinary nurses train in a number of ways. The majority gain vocational qualifications and experience whilst employed by a veterinary practice as an “apprentice” student nurse. The employing practice allows them time off to attend a college course, usually on a day-release basis. Alternatively, some colleges offer full-time programmes during which students will gain practical experience in one or more veterinary practices willing to offer this type of training, on a similar basis to veterinary school extra-mural studies (EMS). Training for this vocational route takes between two and three years, after which time students gain a Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing. 

For those more academically inclined, undergraduate programmes are also available. University students also gain experience, and are assessed, in clinical veterinary practice. This can be via paid or unpaid placements. Details of specific programmes can be gained from the appropriate college or university.

A veterinary practice could support either apprenticeship-style training or provide practical placements for college/university-based programmes (or both) by becoming an approved Training Practice.

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How do I go about getting Training Practice approval?

You will need to apply to an Approved Centre (College) to become an associated Training Practice. Download the List of RCVS approved qualifications in veterinary nursing for details of Awarding Institutions with the links to their approved centres (see 'Related documents' box, top right). 

Your chosen Centre will provide you with information regarding the application process and you can download an application form from the 'Related documents' box on the right which lists the criteria to be met for approval. Once you have completed your application, the Head of Centre will arrange for your practice to be visited. This visit will confirm your facilities and case-load and will also enable the visitor to discuss the ways in which the centre will assist you to provide good practical VN training. 

If your practice can not provide all of the required facilities and resources to be a stand-alone Training Practice (TP) this need not exclude you from training. Practices can apply to become an Auxiliary Training Practice (aTP), provided that you are prepared to allow apprenticeship-style students (i.e. employed by you) time to gain experience elsewhere if it is not available in your own practice. Your centre will assess your facilities and arrange an agreement for students to spend time on secondment to another practice (where the required facilities are in place) as appropriate.

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What is an Approved Centre?

An Approved Centre is an organisation (usually a college) approved to deliver RCVS-approved veterinary nursing qualifications, including the requisite practical training.  An Approved Centre provides training and assessment through working in partnership with veterinary practices able to provide practical training and work experience.

Centres are accountable to the RCVS and to their qualifications body for ensuring that training and assessment meets nationally regulated standards. It does this through supporting practice staff and actively monitoring training and assessment that takes place in its associated practices. 

These quality assurance procedures are carried out by Internal verifiers who are experienced and suitably qualified veterinary surgeons (MsRCVS) or registered veterinary nurses (RVNs) employed by centres. Internal verifiers use a range of activities to monitor the work of practice-based clinical coaches. 

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What resources do we need to be a Training Practice?

You need a reasonably well-designed and equipped practice that will enable a student veterinary nurse to learn safe and effective nursing skills. In general, this means that you must have a consultation room, an aseptic operating theatre with separate preparation area, kennels for in-patients and diagnostic facilities (radiography and basic laboratory). If your practice is RCVS Practice Standards Scheme accredited at general practice or veterinary hospital level you will have the required facilities. In addition you must have a reasonably varied and busy case load. You will also need to have internet access so that students can complete the online recording system for their clinical training.

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What is the difference between a full TP and an auxiliary TP?

If your practice does not meet all of the requirements for TP status but would still like to train students then it may be possible for you to apply for auxiliary training practice status. Where, for example a practice lacks radiography equipment or has a low case load, an arrangement could be made for students to be seconded to another suitable training practice to gain the necessary experience. In such cases a Memorandum of Understanding must be drawn up to outline the exact arrangement in accordance with all parties involved. Your centre will be able to provide you with more advice on this.

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Do the practice staff require any special training or experience?

The staff who will be teaching your student should have a high level of skill in small animal or equine care and possess sufficient maturity to be able to coach and support a junior member of the practice staff. Normally, training should be led by a registered veterinary nurse in order to maintain the correct focus on learning nursing skills. 

You will need to ensure that either a registered (home practising) veterinary surgeon or registered veterinary nurse is available to assess your student's progress and provide regular feedback. Clinical coaches (as they are called) are offered ongoing support and training by the approved centre.

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How much time will it take up?

The training and assessment of your student is an active process. You will need to ensure that one member of your practice staff is able to lead your student's training and assess his/her practical skills from day to day (the clinical coach) and that other qualified staff are prepared to actively engage in training. 

Your staff must be able to make at least three hours per week available for training and assessing your student. Most of this time will be spent teaching skills "on the job" and assessing progress, however some time will need to be spent in planning practical teaching and experience and formally reviewing your student's performance.

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Why is entry to the RCVS VN Register so rigorous?

The Level 3 Diplomas in Veterinary Nursing and higher education awards are nationally recognised qualifications that must comply with rigorous standards of quality assurance, overseen by national regulators. Registered veterinary nurses carry out a critical role in veterinary practice and are professionally accountable for their practice.  It is therefore essential that their qualifications to enter the Register are nationally recognised, quality assured and externally regulated.

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Does the Government fund VN qualifications?

In addition to providing nurses with widely recognised and quantifiable qualifications, vocational qualifications attract public funding through the Skills Funding Agency and form the basis of formal Apprenticeships. This funding provides extensive subsidies for college-based veterinary nursing courses and enables eligible students to receive subsidised course fees. 

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How much will it cost me to train veterinary nurses?

Clearly, training a student nurse incurs costs to the practice. These will include:

  • Your student's salary which must comply with National Minimum Wage legislation where applicable (a special rate is in place for apprentices) 

  • The cost of time spent providing tuition and assessment in the practice
     
  • The initial cost of training your clinical coach  

  • The cost of quality assurance visits from your centre that are over and above the public funding your student attracts

  • A contribution to your student's enrolment, college and examination fees if they are over 19

This may sound a lot, however the majority of students are eligible for Skills Funding Agency funding which will subsidise their training fees either fully or in part. Your centre may also receive funding to assist with clinical coach training. 

Please note that fees vary by centre and we are therefore unable to give any specific information. Your centre will be able to provide you with further advice and assistance.

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What does the RCVS do?

The RCVS, as a professional regulator, must ensure that veterinary nursing qualifications meet standards set by VN Council for delivery, assessment and quality assurance, as listed in the Veterinary Nursing Bye-Laws, section 6.

 

The RCVS must continuously monitor standards of training and assessment in its approved centres. It does this through visiting centres and a sample of their associated practices each year, for each Awarding Institution. During visits, the students' assessment records and online learning records are monitored and audited, and students and centre staff are informally interviewed. The RCVS visitor is known as an external verifier; he or she is an experienced and suitably qualified veterinary surgeon or registered VN. 

In addition to external verification, the RCVS holds independent examinations several times per year for student veterinary nurses. These assessments are an important way of ensuring that all veterinary nurses reach a similar standard of knowledge and skill before receiving their Level 3 Diploma certificates and, ultimately, entering the VN Register.

The RCVS (the VN Council) also monitors universities, which award registerable VN qualifications, regularly. Annual visits take place in much the same way as for the Level 3 Diploma. University students take the RCVS independent examinations until the College is satisfied that a veterinary nursing degree programme is assessed to a standard at least as rigorous as that set by the RCVS for its vocational students.

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