Vet Nursing Assistants need to be effectively integrated into veterinary practice.

Since 2016 trained veterinary nursing assistants (VNAs) have been available to work in New Zealand veterinary practices. This practice development has the potential to help manage workloads more effectively, reducing the risk of compassion fatigue and burnout amongst veterinary nurses and veterinarians. Lecturer and veterinarian Angela Young has investigated whether the introduction of veterinary nursing assistants has achieved this potential. 

Angela looked at job descriptions, and held focus groups and semi-structured interviews. The 30 veterinary practice staff participating included veterinarians and veterinary nurses and technicians, as well as veterinary nursing assistants. Some of these VNAs were utilised in all clinic areas, while others had very limited duties, especially reception and hospital (kennel) duties. At busier times VNAs were more likely to be asked to perform more technical tasks.  

Angela identified a need for greater clarity about the different qualifications for vet nurses and VNAs. Despite this, there was general consensus amongst participants for 18 out of 27 different tasks, about whether tasks could or could not be delegated to a VNA. Ten different factors contributed to decisions about what tasks actually would be delegated to VNAs within a multidisciplinary team. Angela recommends that the relevant professional bodies issue clear guidelines for appropriate and safe delegation of tasks. Within each veterinary practice, clear communication of expectations between staff contributes to improved patient outcomes, team wellness and business success.

June 2022