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The Myths about Degree Nurses

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Jane Davidson RVN veterinary-nurses, career zone

However you got here – you’re an RVN!

June is a sunny, fabulous month. For me, it’s grass court tennis, beach walks and my birthday.

For all the final year degree vet nurses it’s a nail biting time of year. Final results go through the exam boards, the people with the final say on your final grades.

We have had a degree for vet nurses in the UK for over 10 years.

There are now around 17 providers of foundation and honours degrees and application numbers keep rising. The degree is here to stay and is needed to provide nursing research for the future.

With a degree, you still qualify as an RVN, get the badge, and go on the register. And you have a BSc or FdSc. You may have joined your vet nurse degree with business, management or education. You could have already studied specialised modules in exotics or behaviour. Yet I’ve never met a degree vet nurse who would consider themselves any better than any other vet nurse. They know how much hard work the training is and how tough practice life is.

Yet I still hear and see murmurings of dissent about degree nurses. Commonly heard are people saying they aren’t as competent with Day One skills when they graduate. They haven’t got the skills a diploma vet nurse has.

Well, I’m here to burst that bubble.

There are some facts to present and some information you may not have known about or considered.

Not everyone will realise that many degree vet nurses actually spend more hours in practice than is needed to join the register. This is because degree vet nurses have to meet two sets of criteria. They need to meet the RCVS register criteria and also their universities academic criteria. The university will already have set their placement hours and criteria. Usually, these are higher than the RCVS criteria.

As they are at university for 3-4 years you also find they may regularly work in practice at weekends and during holidays. Even if this is not needed for their course it is a valuable experience. It also means even if they had little experience prior to their degree starting they really do gain great skills before they qualify.

If people are questioning the quality of their practical skills then it might help to know they follow an RCVS approved programme. This includes a nursing progress log (NPL) or equivalent. As with diploma nurses, degree vet nurses also have to be in a training practice (TP) and have a clinical coach (CC) who is an RVN or MRCVS.

Degree vet nurses may have even sat the same RCVS OSCEs as diploma vet nurses. You don’t get much time to talk at your final OSCEs so you may not have realised you sat them with degree vet nurses too. Many universities run their own practical exams – as the diploma provider CQ have done.

You need to prove competency in Day One skills to enter the register.

Who declares you competent?

Others in the profession. RVN or MRCVS. So there should be no difference between degree and diploma vet nurses. Everyone starts as competent for their Day One skills

What I’m trying to highlight is that you are an RVN whichever way you qualified. You are needed and wanted by the profession.

I can see where some of the perceptions have come from and would like to get people to reflect on the differences in the training routes. Some of these may be why people perceive a difference.

Degree nurses are provided with placements via their university. Although some stay in one practice for their training the majority do not. This does provide variety and the chance to learn from different teams.

However, this does mean they may carry out some tasks differently to your practice. Which is fine, but our perception can sometimes be that it is not as good as the way we do it.

Degree vet nurses are also more likely to start a new practice directly after graduating – or just before sometimes! Such is the demand for vet nurses there is little graduate unemployment.

Imagine starting your first day as an RVN in a new place? Pretty nerve wracking? Compared to diploma nurses who usually stay in their training practice post qualification – even for 6-12 months. This may be why perceptions can be different as the new degree vet nurse will be left to their own devices. Learning a new practices’ ways and then honing their skills from competent to proficient to expert – that’s a lot to take on.

This final difference shows. Where the diploma nurse often feels they aren’t allowed to move on to become proficient to expert as they are still ‘the student’. The degree vet nurse arrives with a different way of doing things and needs to settle into a new team before the journey to expert practitioner starts.

But. We all get there. Whatever our route into vet nursing we are RVNs and we progress. From Day One skills to proficient to expert.

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