Welcome to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' website for animal owners

About the veterinary professions

 

Veterinary surgeons

You may have noticed that veterinary surgeons have the initials ‘MRCVS’ or ‘FRCVS’ after their names.

This stands for member, or fellow, of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), and indicates their registration with the RCVS, the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons in the UK.

The title ‘veterinary surgeon’ is protected in law: only those who are registered with the RCVS can use the title.

‘Veterinary surgery’ as an area of work is protected by the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. This means that activities described as veterinary surgery can only be carried out by veterinary surgeons, with some exemptions.

With rights come responsibilities, and the same legislation that protects the profession of veterinary surgery also lays down the way in which the profession should be regulated.

More details about the Veterinary Surgeons Act, and how we are trying to modernise veterinary legislation, can be found on the main RCVS website.

The veterinary profession is made up of over 26,000 registered veterinary surgeons. Just over 19,000 of these are registered as ‘UK-practising’ members, which means they can practise in the UK.

The profession is a varied one: veterinary surgeons can be found working in clinical practice (most commonly, small animal, farm animal, equine or exotic), research, academia, industry or government.

All RCVS-registered veterinary surgeons have achieved an educational qualification that meets our registration requirements. In addition, those practising in the UK agree to abide by the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons and commit to keep their skills and knowledge up to date, by means of continuing professional development.

 

Maintaining standards

The RCVS regulates the educational, professional and ethical standards of all veterinary surgeons, regardless of the kind of work they do. A robust investigation and disciplinary mechanism is in place and will be triggered if a veterinary surgeon falls short of the standards expected by the profession and the public.

Information about how to raise a concern about a veterinary surgeon can be found in the ‘I want to raise a concern’ section.

 

Check the Register

You can check online to see if a veterinary surgeon is registered or call us on 020 7202 0707. If you have concerns about an individual who you believe is practising as a veterinary surgeon and does not appear to be registered with us, please contact us immediately and we will pass the details to the relevant authorities. Unqualified and/or unregistered people acting as veterinary surgeons can have serious implications for animal health, and even human health.

 

Further information

  • For a profile of the veterinary profession, see the RCVS Facts publication on the right. 
  • You can also download the findings of our RCVS Survey of the Veterinary and Veterinary Nursing Professions 2010 (see 'Related documents' box)

 

Veterinary nurses

Some people in the team at your veterinary practice will have the initials ‘RVN’ after their names.

The title ‘veterinary nurse’, and the letters ‘RVN’, should only be used by those who have completed an approved veterinary nurse training course and are registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the regulatory body for veterinary nursing. Registered veterinary nurses are accountable for their professional practice, and must follow the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses. They also keep their skills and knowledge up to date by means of continuing professional development.

There are over 11,000 registered veterinary nurses in the UK. The register began as a voluntary scheme in 2007, and became underpinned by Royal Charter on 17 February 2015.

Veterinary nurses provide professional care for sick animals and support for their owners and are important members of the veterinary team.

They are trained to provide a high standard of nursing care based on a sound knowledge of the patient’s condition and its individual needs. They also play a significant role in the education of owners about maintaining the health of their animals and work closely with them to manage a variety of preventative health issues, such as dental hygiene and nutrition.

Veterinary nurses most commonly work in clinical veterinary practice – usually small animal practice, although sometimes in equine, exotic or mixed practice. Some work in industry, academia or research.

Veterinary nurses must become registered with the RCVS in order to undertake a range of technical procedures under veterinary direction. These include diagnostic tests such as radiography and laboratory analysis, medical treatments, including administration of medication and intravenous fluid therapy, and minor surgical procedures, such as suturing and assisting with wound management.

Since 1 April 2011, the RCVS has investigated complaints made against RVNs, in the same way that complaints about veterinary surgeons are considered.

Information on how to raise a concern about a registered veterinary nurse can be found in the ‘I want to raise a concern’ section.

 

Further information

  • You can check online to see if a veterinary nurse is registered.
  • For a profile of the veterinary nursing profession, see the RCVS Facts publication.
  • You can also download the findings of our RCVS Survey of the Veterinary and Veterinary Nursing Professions 2010 (see 'Related documents' box).
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