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Starting out – offering support to newly registered vet nurses

This feature was first published in the August edition of VN Times. We are publishing this on our website with their kind permission.

In this article RCVS VN Futures project lead Jill Macdonald RVN, discusses the new RCVS Academy course, designed to provide newly registered VNs with consistent, meaningful and personalised support during the transition from student to RVN.

RVN Starting Out Academy course image - two nurses tending to a dog

The transition from student to RVN is an exciting, yet challenging, time. While it is not your first time in practice, it is the first time upholding official professional responsibilities and being held fully accountable for your actions.

You may have moved to a new workplace and be working with a different team, requiring the ability to adapt and learn new skills, while building on existing ones. As a newly-registered VN, the world is yours to take on – your job and career can be whatever you choose to make it. Taking time to settle in and make the most of a new professional environment will help shape your future and develop your self-confidence – the value of which cannot be underestimated.

Developed by the RCVS as part of the VN Futures Project, we wanted to create a course to ensure that veterinary nursing is, and remains, a vibrant, rewarding and sustainable profession for all.

As an RVN myself, working alongside many RVN colleagues both within and outside of the RCVS on creating the course content, we understand the rewards and challenges that can arise early on in your career.

We are proud to have worked on this important project that uses our experience to support those joining our profession.

What is the RCVS Academy?

The ‘RVN Starting Out’ course can be found in the RCVS Academy – a free digital learning platform for veterinary professionals which aims to support veterinary teams to meet professional standards and provide relevant, up-to-date knowledge through learning and development.

As the regulator, we at the RCVS aim to be forward thinking and have a trusting, compassionate relationship with the professions. The Academy is a key part of this compassion – we want to be a regulator that not only regulates and maintains standards but helps professionals to meet those standards. We aim to be supportive, and the Academy offers key resources to help those within the professions to carry out their roles to the best of their ability, serving in the interests of veterinary professionals, patients, and owners alike.

Launched in 2022, the RCVS Academy recently celebrated its first birthday and, alongside nurse-specific learning, offers courses in a variety of different areas with something for the entire veterinary team.

Aims of ‘RVN Starting out’

Whilst the ‘RVN Starting out’ course was developed with newly-registered nurses in mind, the content is applicable to all veterinary nurses, from newly-registered to well-seasoned professionals.

Keeping your clinical skills up-to-date and your practical knowledge relevant is of vital importance, but there are many other skills and attributes that feed into professional success. Our course delves beyond the clinical skills to allow for comprehensive professional development.

What it means to be an RVN

There is so much to being a Registered Veterinary Nurse and it can feel overwhelming when first joining the profession, or even beyond this period.

The course begins by taking a look at what it actually means to be a Registered Veterinary Nurse – how the profession has evolved, your professional responsibilities, and what happens should things go wrong. It considers why you should take pride in being an RVN, and how you can build recognition for the VN role. It also offers specific guidance on the use of social media – an important area to be familiar with in our modern, digital world.

This module provides a grounding to the entire course and to your entire professional career as an RVN.

Looking forward

RVN Starting Out course portrait image - two veterinary nurses smilingFollowing this, the course progresses to five further modules:

  • Workplace culture;
  • Confidence and communication;
  • Team-based working;
  • Wellbeing; and,
  • Professional development.

It is important that veterinary nurses have insight into key concepts that help build teamwork and understanding, that help practice teams learn and thrive. The course considers how you can make the very best from everyday learning opportunities within the workplace, looking at the just culture model, psychological safety and how to manage incivility, and provides a quality improvement (QI) walkthrough from two RCVS Knowledge team RVNs.

Patient handover, an area often cited as challenging, is also covered in its own section.

Confidence – professional and personal – plays an essential role in professional development. The course supports you to explore, identify and build upon your strengths. Effective communication feeds into this, so we have also incorporated resources on managing challenging situations, assertiveness, negotiation skills, decision-making, and how to influence change.

Change can be challenging, no matter how big or small, and learning to adapt and be flexible to your own needs whilst being receptive to the needs of those around you is an important skill to master.

When it comes to job satisfaction, wellbeing must take precedence. The ‘RVN Starting out’ course offers you an overview of some of the support services available to you, including the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative. This module also covers how to develop a strong and healthy work-life balance which, in the demanding world of veterinary work, can sometimes prove challenging.

At the end of the course, you will be guided through the creation of your own personal development plan, setting and developing achievable goals to guide you towards the career you envision for yourself in the future.

No matter what your career stage, there is something for everyone in ‘RVN Starting out’. Whilst perhaps most useful to newly-registered VNs, it serves as the perfect starting point for any veterinary nurse looking to continue their learning journey and progress within their career.


The course takes around 10 hours to complete, and you can return to the modules whenever you wish. Each module has been designed to suit a range of learning styles, including videos, articles, and infographics designed to keep the content engaging, flexible, and relevant to individual learning needs.

We have also provided a selection of self-assessment methods throughout the course, including multiple choice questions, reflective exercises, and scenarios to consider.

Accessing the Academy

The RCVS Academy is free to all registered members of the veterinary professions using the RCVS My Account login details. In addition to the ‘RVN Starting out’ course, other courses in areas such as leadership and management, ownership disputes, and principles of delegation are also available.

Learning content on the Academy is developed by the RCVS and offers the ability to plan and track learning. QR codes and direct links make it simple to record and reflect on what members of the professions have learned in the RCVS 1CPD platform, which all members of the profession must now use in order to meet the RCVS continuing professional development (CPD) requirements.

Remember, reflection is an essential part of the learning process and is now compulsory under the College's CPD policy, so we encourage you to have a think about what you learned, and how you are applying it, and write a short note to accompany your main entry for the course.

Anyone with any questions or feedback for the Academy please contact [email protected].

To access the Academy, visit

Testimonial from Clare Renwick RVN PGCert VBM

I completed this course as an RVN with nearly 20 years post-qualification experience and I found the content so helpful and engaging! This really does suit everyone, regardless of what stage of their career they are at and I can see how beneficial newly qualified RVN’s would find this.

The content was really engaging, and it was great to hear from peers within our nursing community on some of the key issues that impact us daily in our roles, eg on wellbeing, confidence, and delegation. It was also great to understand more about how we can diversify, build our professional identify and find a niche utilising support from our own teams we work with as well as peers across the industry.

Personally, I particularly liked the topics around communication and team interactions, as this is something that certainly was not taught when I qualified, and is such an important part of building great relationships in our working lives.

Discovering digital learning – why the RCVS Academy?

RCVS Academy Manager Jennifer Ayers RVN tells us about the benefits of digital learning, taking a deeper dive into the RCVS Academy…

  1. What do you think are the biggest benefits of digital learning?

Digital learning offers a wide range of content that can be accessed at any time and caters to a variety of learning styles, from podcasts and interactive courses to collaborative learning such as live webinars and discussion forums. Much of the content is free and updated regularly, allowing you to explore the latest knowledge and approaches within your chosen topics.

2. Why would you encourage nurses to explore the RCVS Academy?

With growing demands and increasing unpredictability within the profession, it is important that veterinary nurses can access CPD around work and home commitments. The RCVS Academy provides free on-demand access to suit each individual nurse. There are courses designed for a range of career stages and interests to support nurses to meet the standards and continue to progress.

3. What relevant content is currently available to nurses?

There are courses to develop further understanding of the Standards and how they relate to RVN responsibilities such as; microchipping, informed consent, and approaching complaints with compassion and confidence. ‘Working in the UK’ supports nurses from overseas to enter the UK register and our new ‘RVN Starting out’ is one of our newest courses, developed to provide guidance to newly registered RVNs. ‘Clinical Supervisor’ offers structured learning and guidance for RVNs who train SVNs and our short leadership courses provide further development for future and existing nurse leaders.

4. What’s your favourite RCVS Academy course and why?

I’m not quite sure I have a favourite…(yet!). However, our ‘CPD Record and reflect’ course is really popular. It’s concise and provides some great tools and tips to help nurses further understand their CPD requirements and how to practically apply this to everyday life. It’s a great help to those who struggle to plan, record and reflect on CPD so it’s definitely worth taking a look!

(Note - Jennifer's interview did not appear in the original VN Times article.)

August 2023