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A qualitative study of final year student veterinary nurses' career plans and expectations

02 June 2024
14 mins read
Volume 15 · Issue 5



The limited longevity of veterinary nurses' clinical careers is a current challenge faced in the veterinary industry. In order for veterinary nurse job vacancies to be filled, it is essential for graduate veterinary nurses to be motivated to seek employment in clinical practice. The aim of this study was to explore the career plans and expectations of final year student veterinary nurses.


Online semi-structured interviews with ten final year student veterinary nurses were used to collect qualitative data. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.


The results revealed that there were aspects of clinical practice the participants were looking forward to and others they perceived would be challenging and may threaten the longevity of their clinical career. An example was the demanding nature of the job role.


All participants expressed a desire to work in clinical practice following their graduation, but were aware that they were unlikely to have long-term clinical careers. It is recommended that veterinary nurse educators should support students to develop the resilience necessary for them to face the challenges of clinical practice and also help them to gain the transferrable skills they may require for alternative future career paths.

Workforce shortages and the increase in pet ownership, seen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, have contributed to the challenges faced by members of the veterinary nursing profession, leading to high numbers of registered veterinary nurses expressing a desire to leave clinical practice in the next five years (Robinson et al, 2020; Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), 2022).

The high numbers of registered veterinary nurses choosing to leave clinical practice each year was attributed to reduced levels of intrinsic motivation by Coates (2013), who concluded that despite the meaningful nature of the veterinary nurse job role, factors such as stress, lack of recognition and low levels of pay contributed to registered veterinary nurses' desire to seek alternative careers. The RCVS (2022) suggests that further research is required to understand why individuals leave the veterinary nurse profession and what their future career plans are.

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