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The art of delegation: integration of the veterinary nursing assistant into New Zealand veterinary practice

02 December 2021
14 mins read
Volume 12 · Issue 10



In 2016 veterinary nursing assistants (VNAs) were introduced as an additional tier to New Zealand veterinary practice.


This study explores the utilisation of VNAs in New Zealand veterinary practices to ascertain the impact of an additional staffing layer to patient outcomes, workload management and staff wellness.


Through focus groups and semi-structured interviews with 30 participants, three themes emerged allowing evaluation of the Allied Veterinary Professionals Regulatory Council (AVPRC) Scope of Practice (SP) (AVPRC, 2020) and development of delegation guidelines (DG).


Analysis identified weak processes in delegation. The practice-based perspectives of VNA staff utilisation supports the AVPRC SP.


Effective communication of the SP and DG for veterinary practice utilisation could contribute to reducing workload pressure. Additionally, individual practice staff discussions regarding own and colleague job expectations, along with review of contractual job descriptions, could further evolution of multi-tiered practices leading to improved patient outcomes, team wellness and business success.

In 2016 the first graduates of the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology (Veterinary Nursing Assistant) (NZCAT-VNA) (NZQA, 2015) emerged giving New Zealand veterinary businesses the opportunity to expand the practice team. The integration of veterinary nursing assistants (VNAs) into practice has the potential to alleviate stress experienced by veterinary staff.

While studies of stress in this sector have predominately centred on veterinarian wellbeing, recently studies have emerged with a focus in veterinary nurses (VN) (Huggard and Huggard, 2008; Foote 2020; Harvey and Cameron 2020). ‘Compassion fatigue’ and ‘burnout’ are the types of stress most reported in the veterinary workforce. They may occur in conjunction or independently and are implicated as major contributors to poor staff outcomes. These include high risk of suicide in veterinarians (Bartram et al, 2009; Bartram and Baldwin 2010) and harmful coping mechanisms such as increased medical/recreational drug use in VNs (Overfield, 2012). While compassion fatigue is a consequence of direct involvement in traumatic events or interaction with those suffering from traumatic events (Figley and Roop, 2006), ‘burnout’ is related to conflict between roles (Dale, 2019; Harvey and Cameron, 2019), overwork, or conversely, insufficient workload (Rizzo et al, 1970).

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