There is evidence that the number of registered veterinary nurses (RVNs) in the United Kingdom has declined in recent years (Munroe and Robinson, 2008; RCVS, 2018; Robertson-Smith et al., 2010). It is important that the number of RVNs grows in line with the number of veterinary surgeons to ensure there are sufficient registered professionals to deliver the care needed for patients.
The UK regulatory body for RVNs, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), maintains the professional register of RVNs. Every year, a proportion choose not to continue to practise. This research aimed to determine the factors that predict retention rates within the veterinary nursing profession and to set out recommendations that could improve retention.
The research critically analysed the views of the veterinary nursing profession to determine factors that influence retention, through analysis of the RCVS 2014 and 2019 large-scale surveys of UK RVNs, each called the RCVS Survey of the Veterinary Nursing (VN) Profession (Munroe and Robinson, 2008; Robertson-Smith et al., 2010; Vivian et al., 2022). It is important to note that both surveys focus on the intention to leave and do not include feedback from those who have already left the profession (Halter et al., 2017).
A review of relevant literature was conducted, highlighting factors identified as affecting retention in the UK and internationally, to position the review within the context of what is already known about the subject globally. These studies covered the veterinary profession, human-centred nursing and dental nursing.
A review of relevant literature was conducted, highlighting factors identified as affecting retention in the UK and internationally
The primary data set from the RCVS Survey of the VN Profession comprised 4,586 respondents in 2014 and 6,369 respondents in 2019. An analysis of the quantitative data was undertaken using multivariable logistic regression analysis to identify predictors of intention to leave the profession.
Quantitative analysis of both the 2014 and 2019 surveys identified statistically significant correlations with the intention to leave. Four variables were found to be significant predictors of retention or intention to leave in both years, with the ranges shown reporting the results of the two different surveys:
- Respondents with a second job were approximately 1.6 to 1.8 times more likely to leave the profession
- 70 percent were less likely to leave if they believed their career could progress
- 75 to 85 percent were motivated to stay if they experienced job satisfaction
- 50 to 60 percent indicated that employer support was a determinant for not wanting to leave the profession
Although there were other significant predictors to staying within the profession, they did not emerge from both studies. In 2019, those who were satisfied with salary were 53 percent less likely to intend to leave. The challenge of client expectations was another statistically significant predictor of leaving the profession in 2019.
The following factors were statistically significant predictors of remaining within the profession in 2014 but not in 2019: undertaking nurse clinics; feeling valued; and being respected.
There was also a clear statistical relationship between job satisfaction, career progression and retention. In 2019, those who agreed that veterinary nursing work gives them job satisfaction were 76 percent less likely to leave the profession. Similarly, those believing that veterinary nursing offers good opportunities for career progression were 70 percent less likely to intend to leave. In 2019, nurses who were satisfied with the support from their employer were 57 percent less likely to intend to leave the profession, compared with those who were not satisfied.
There are some topics within the higher education curriculum […] which could be added to the further education curriculum to help build professional resilience
The education route into the profession was not significant in terms of retention. However, there are some topics within the higher education curriculum, such as problem-solving and clinical decision making, which could be added to the further education curriculum to help build professional resilience.
The factors that influence the retention of nurses within the profession are multifactorial and individual. Nurses are responsible for ensuring that colleagues are aware of their skillset and they themselves are accountable for utilisation of those skills (RCVS, 2014).
When veterinary nurses are supported by their employers, they are more likely to stay in the profession
When veterinary nurses are supported by their employers, they are more likely to stay in the profession. A sense of job satisfaction was another important factor. This was supported by human-centred studies, which identified that the ability to use initiative, being empowered within the workplace and having autonomy are key to job satisfaction (Barren and West, 2005; Chan et al., 2013; O’Brien-Pallas et al., 2006).
Having a clearly defined career structure with mapped progression routes, similar to those within the National Health Service, would support veterinary nurses, their colleagues and employers. Understanding of the different levels of achievement and required skills at each level of a nurse’s career would facilitate collaboration and effectiveness.
|The study has been published in the open access peer-reviewed scientific journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science. It was co-authored by Dr Andrea Jeffery (Linnaeus) and Eleanor Taylor (RCVS).
This article was originally published in Linnaeus’s clinical research report, Pathways to Innovation: Learning and Leadership in Clinical Veterinary Research, which is free to download.
We would like to thank the RCVS for the data provided in the 2014 and 2019 surveys of the veterinary nursing profession. We would also like to thank Catherine Coates for her editing support. Linnaeus supported the costs of publishing the paper through its Open Access Publication Charge initiative.