Veterinary nurses in S'pore want their profession to be regulated, so standards can be raised

Ms Evonne Yong, head veterinary nurse at The Animal Clinic (Sunset Way), attending to a cat and a baby mynah. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF EVONNE YONG
Ms Shabrina Zulkifli helping to bandage a wedgetail eagle at the University of Queensland. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SHABRINA ZULKIFLI

SINGAPORE - Many veterinary nurses and technicians are asking for their profession to be regulated, so standards can be raised.

There are around 1,000 to 1,500 veterinary nurses and technicians in Singapore, including those who work in the wildlife sector, research facilities and equine establishments, said Ms Evonne Yong, a member of the Singapore Veterinary Association's Singapore Veterinary Nurses and Technicians Chapter (SVNTC), which was formed last month.

The profession is not regulated here, added the 35-year-old, who is head veterinary nurse at The Animal Clinic. It, for one, does not have a fixed minimum qualification.

Some veterinary nurses are hired and trained on the job, while others have a diploma in veterinary science from polytechnics, said Ms Alison Wah, 30, co-chair of the team that formed the SVNTC.

Some will sign up for courses a few years into the job, added Ms Wah, who is also a senior vet technician at Hillside Veterinary Surgery.

Although there is no fixed salary for veterinary nurses, they generally earn between $1,800 and close to $3,000, said Ms Yong.

The sector has also been grappling with a high turnover rate fuelled by long working hours, lack of career progression and, sometimes, abusive pet owners.

"On average, some nurses work for about one-and-a-half to two years before moving on to other professions that might have better career advancement," observed Ms Wah.

Dr Goh Lay Beng, director of Temasek Polytechnic's School of Applied Science, noted that only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of its students who pursue further studies after getting their diploma in veterinary technology stick to veterinary-related degrees.

Having opportunities for veterinary technicians to specialise in areas, such as emergency care or anaesthesia, and take on specialist roles could encourage more to stay in the profession and level up, said Ms Shabrina Zulkifli, 27, a senior veterinary technician at Vetpal, and an SVNTC member.

Ms Yong said: "There is a need to recognise and respect our profession. Everyone knows about vets but they have failed to recognise us, who help and support the vets a lot."

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