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Veterinarian Vs. Nurse

Veterinarians have a wider role and more authority when treating animals while nurses work under the direction of medical doctors. This article explores similar duties veterinarians and nurses perform, as well as some of the differences in their roles.

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Comparing Veterinarians to Nurses

Veterinarians and nurses are both medical professionals but veterinarians are required to have more extensive training and earn a much higher salary. Veterinarians treat animals while nurses focus on providing medical care to people.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Veterinarians Doctoral degree; license $88,770 18%
Nurses Associate's/bachelor's degree or a nursing diploma; license $68,450 (registered nurses) 15% (registered nurses)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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  • Laboratory Animal Medicine
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  • Veterinary Toxicology and Pharmacology

Responsibilities of Veterinarians vs. Nurses

Veterinarians and nurses may both be involved with routine tasks such as evaluating patients and giving patients medication. Both veterinarians and nurses may perform some medical tests on patients, but nurses will do so under the direction of a medical doctor while veterinarians are qualified to order tests themselves. Veterinarians are qualified to operate on animals. Nurses may specialize in assisting doctors during surgical procedures but are not qualified to perform operations themselves. Veterinarians are also qualified to diagnose their patients while nurses monitor patients and report concerns or changes to medical doctors. Veterinarians have a higher level of authority in directing patient care while nurses are responsible for following patient care directions ordered by doctors.

Veterinarians

Veterinarians are animal doctors. Although some veterinarians may work for the government or educational services, most are employed in veterinary offices or veterinary hospitals. Travel may be required for those that treat horses and farm animals. Overnight and evening shifts may be required, depending on their place of employment and the nature of their work. It's also common for veterinarians to work overtime. They need to be compassionate and have good interpersonal skills to communicate effectively with pet owners about their pet's health.

Job responsibilities of a veterinarian include:

  • Assessing the health of animals
  • Performing operations
  • Giving pets medication
  • Overseeing veterinary technicians and assigning tasks
  • Taking X-rays
  • Giving animals vaccinations

Nurses

Nurses work under the direction of a doctor to provide medical care for patients. With practical experience they may be able to advance to supervisory roles. Nurses may also opt to specialize in different areas of treatment and work exclusively with children or patients with a specific type of illnesses, such as cancer. Most nurses are employed by hospitals, where they may work at anytime of the day or night seven days a week. Those that work in medical clinics, or doctors' offices may work during the day and evening. Nurses need compassion for dealing with patients who are ill and must have the stamina to work on their feet for long periods of time.

Job responsibilities of a nurse include:

  • Talking to patients
  • Updating patient histories and medical charts
  • Giving patients medication
  • Informing other medical staff of changes in a patient's condition
  • Educating patients
  • Operating equipment to perform medical tests

Related Careers

Veterinarians are medical professionals who require extensive training and those considering this occupation may also be interested in a career as a family practice doctor because family practice doctors also diagnose and treat patients with medical issues. Aspiring nurses may also be interested in the work that paramedics do because paramedics also provide medical care to people who are ill or injured.

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