• August 22, 2019
Junior vet nurse, Roma Timpson, is unimpressed with her low wages after two years of tertiary study. Photo: Faith Cleverley
New Zealand veterinary nurses are seeking new career paths to supplement their industry-wide low wages.
Low wages and less hours are why nurses are looking elsewhere for employment, says junior vet nurse, Roma Timpson. Poor pay was a “running joke” amongst the students in her course at Unitec and a major deterrent for some.
After two to three years of training, qualified vet nurses are paid minimum wage for their first three years of practice, rising to around $21 after five years experience.
“I want to make sure I have something else I can fall back on so I’m doing a yoga teacher training course straight after I finish my degree. I’ve been made to feel like I need to have a back-up plan,” says Timpson
“Lots of people become ‘pet reps’, like sales representatives. It’s good pay and benefits, you might be talking about vaccines for the rest of your life, but you can move up and get paid better.”
The New Zealand Veterinary Nursing Association (NZVNA) advocates an increase and says the low wages are not unique to New Zealand but a global issue.
The lack of regulation and government funding is the reason NZVNA president, Julie Hutt, attributes to the poor pay industry wide.
“We think it’s not great, why do we do it? Because we love our job. We do it for the profession.”
Hutt says regulating the industry goes hand in hand with increasing wages. NZVNA are currently pushing for compulsory registration for vet nurses. While most vet nurses are qualified, they don’t need a qualification to work legally as a vet nurse.
“The public often don’t know when they send their pet to a vet clinic, some of the staff members looking after their animal may not be qualified.”
Restraining animals, monitoring and administering anaesthetic, dental work and medication injections are just some of the tasks vet nurses carry out daily.