Level 3 Diploma in Equine Veterinary Nursing

Our next start date for the Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing is Monday 13 September 2021.


Bookings:  Bookings open in July 2021.

Induction study week 1:  27.09.21 – 30.09.21

Online studies start:        13.09.21


This 2 year programme leads to a qualification that prepares veterinary nurses for professional registration on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Register of Veterinary Nurses.  Enrolment includes membership of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA).


Awarding Body Update

TOCES will be working with a new veterinary nursing awarding body; full details will be published soon.  Some of the details set out here will change but have been left ‘live’ to give an indication of course content.  This will change slightly when the new VN qualification is launched.


Covid-19 Update

TOCES has continued to provide VN training throughout the Covid-19 pandemic via live and pre-recorded online webinars, which have proved very successful.  Study weeks have now resumed at our new, purpose-built training facility which includes a spacious lecture and clinical skills teaching room enabling us to provide training in a safe and socially distanced setting.     With regard to accommodation whilst attending study weeks, we provide a list of local bed and breakfast accommodation options.


Covid safety guidelines are provided and must be adhered to during study weeks.


The course will be delivered via:

  • One study day per week, delivered remotely via BigBlueButton
  • Approximately three attended study weeks per year (Exact duration TBC)
  • Live and pre-recorded online webinars and support sessions
  • Online tutorials and student monitoring sessions
  • Online learning materials and interactive activities


Programme Structure

This qualification comprises 13 core units (12 at Level 3 and one at Level 4) and a further six equine units at Level 3.

Unit Titles

Guided learning hours (GLH)

360 Understand the operational requirements of a veterinary practice 40
379 Applied anatomy and physiology for equine veterinary nursing practice 60
362 Professional relationships and communication for veterinary nursing practice 40
380 Applied equine welfare, health and husbandry for veterinary nurses 35
364 Infection control in veterinary practice 20
381 Veterinary nursing support of equine patients 80
366 Supporting the supply of veterinary medicines 20
367 Veterinary nursing support of diagnostic imaging 20
382 Veterinary nursing support of laboratory diagnostics 40
369 Veterinary operating theatre practice 40
383 Peri-operative veterinary nursing support of equine patients 40
384 Principles of supporting veterinary anaesthesia 40
372 Preparing for professional registration 35
385 Equine veterinary nursing emergency and critical care 40
386 Principles of equine reproduction and neonatal care 40


Required study hours per week

To be eligible for enrolment onto this programme students are required to complete 60 weeks (2,100 hours) of work experience within an approved Training Practice. The Training Practice must agree to provide the following to support their student through their qualification:

  • a safe working environment
  • a minimum of three hours’ structured training per week – training provided by the student’s clinical coach targeted towards Nursing Progress Log (NPL) completion and/or preparation for the Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs).
  • a minimum of three hours of independent study time during paid working hours* – time allocated to the student for the completion of their distance learning material. In the event of busier periods where study may not be possible, it is expected that the opportunity will be given for the student to make up this time at a later date.
  • reasonable access to their clinical coach on at least two days per week – the clinical coach should be available to work with their student in order to provide additional support alongside the structured training hours.
  • permission to attend planned TOCES study weeks and online tutorials

*If a student is completing their training hours in practice in a part-time agreement, their independent study time during paid working hours should be provided on a pro-rata basis.

For further information regarding the responsibilities of the Training Practice and the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding with TOCES, please refer to the “Veterinary Nursing” tabs above.


Assessment Methods

  • RCVS Day One Skills for Veterinary Nurses
  • Externally set assignment
  • Awarding body devised MCQ tests
  • Practical exam (OSCE)
  • Nursing Progress Log (NPL)

Course Accreditation

Academic level:

Further Education Level 3

Number of units/modules:

19 VN units studied across 12 TOCES modules

Study hours per unit:

20 - 80

Guided learning hours:


Course duration:

2 years

Total qualification time

3445 hours

Study week requirements:

6 x 4-day study weeks plus OSCE crammer and mocks

Aged 16 or above.

Minimum of five GCSEs at Grade C and above. These must include English Language, at least one science subject and mathematics.

Alternative qualifications of a comparable or higher standard may be accepted in lieu of the usual requirements.

Learners must have access to suitable work experience in a clinical veterinary practice. This may be on the basis of paid employment or an unpaid placement and must amount to a minimum of 1800 hours over the course of the programme for a minimum of 15 hours per week. (Please note that the fewer hours spent in practice each week, the longer it will take to complete the course).

Course Accreditation

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Module/Unit Details

  • Module 1 Veterinary Nursing in Practice

    The Legal and Professional Framework. Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, Veterinary nursing and the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, definition of veterinary surgery, what can be done by people other than veterinary surgeons, e.g. veterinary nurses, qualified veterinary nurses, student veterinary nurses. Schedule 3 to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, equine dentistry, Farriers (Registration) Act 1975, Medicines Act 1968, Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2008, Welfare of Animals in Transit Order 1997, Animal Welfare Act 2006. Veterinary physiotherapy and animal therapy, regulatory bodies.

    Communication skills, methods of communication. Listening, active listening, communication styles. Dealing with difficult clients/emotions, empathy, non-verbal empathic response, practice and feedback. Breaking bad news, preparation, responding to emotional cues, blocking behaviours, giving information, closing the consultation. Dealing with the angry client. RCVS guidance on communication when providing veterinary services.

    Planning Nursing Care. Nursing models, ‘Activities of Learning’ (Roper, Logan and Tierney, 2000), Universal Self Care Requisites (Orem, 2001). Nursing care, assessment, admission form, equine passports, informed consent. Nursing plans, clinical records, daily record sheets, abbreviations used in clinical record keeping, blood tests.

  • Module 2 Health and Safety in Veterinary Nursing Practice

    Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, General responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Employee training, consequences of poor workplace health and safety practices.

    Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, risk assessment, controlling the risks, reviewing the risks, risk areas in the veterinary practice, risks when handling horses. Key Regulations, Manual Handling, manual handling risk assessments, work equipment, Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (2002), prevention or control of exposure to substances hazardous to health.

    Waste disposal in veterinary practice, cytotoxic drugs, photographic waste, contaminated sharps, infectious waste, non-hazardous waste. Personal protective equipment, Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). Working with radiation, radiation protection, controlled area, monitoring of designated persons.

    Zoonotic Diseases: Causes and Prevention. Common zoonotic disease transmission routes, zoonotic diseases spread by the faecal – oral route. Bacterial and fungal diseases that infect people by direct contact. Zoonotic diseases spread by horse parasites.

  • Module 3 Equine Anatomy and Physiology

    Structure of cells and tissue. Cell components, cell division. Tissue types and organs: Epithelial, connective, nervous and muscular tissue. Musculo-skeletal: bone formation, structure and types of muscle.

    Function and anatomy of the systems of the horse. Skeletal: Functions of the skeleton, skeletal anatomy, joints, classification of synovial joints, range of joint movement. Muscles: Superficial, deep.

    Cardiovascular: composition and circulation of blood, structure of the heart and blood vessels, effect of exercise on the circulatory system. Respiratory: functions and anatomy of the respiratory system, the process of gaseous exchange, the way in which energy is produced during respiration. Lymphatic: structure and function of the lymphatic system.

    Systems of information and control. Central and peripheral nervous systems, sensory neurons, receptors to central nervous system, motor neurons. Sensory systems – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch the functions of the glands of the endocrine system, the actions of the hormones produced by the glands.

    Physiology of the urinary system. Organs and functions of the urinary system, how kidneys filter water and unwanted substances from blood, how the correct balance of salts and fluids is maintained within cells.

  • Module 4 Applied Equine Welfare, Health and Husbandry for Veterinary Nurses

    Evaluation and assessment of welfare. The needs of the animal, the ‘Five Freedoms’, domestication and welfare, welfare and suffering. Assessment of ‘normal’ behaviour, stress and its effects on animal welfare. Signs of stress, mechanisms of stress, environmental enrichment, current welfare issues.

    Protective legislation in the UK. Animal Welfare Act 2006, Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. Equine dentistry, Category 1, 2 and 3 equine dental procedures. Farriers (Registration) Act 1975, Amendment 1977, Medicines Act 1968, Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2008, Welfare of Animals in Transit Order 1997.
    Yard Design. Stabling, stable construction. Grooming, clipping, rugging.

    Equine Nutrition. Macronutrients, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, water. Micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, supplements. Feedstuffs, cereals, protein feeds, bulk feeds, compound feeds. Forages, hay, haylage. Rules of feeding, sample feed rations.

    Maintaining Health and Preventing Disease. Routine hoof care, shoeing, internal parasites, effect on health, faecal egg counts, control of infestation, anthelmintics, resistance. Care of the teeth. Vaccinations.
    Equine Reproduction: Health checks, nutrition, swabbing, blood test for EVA, documentation. Teasing, mare and stallion preparation, methods of restraint, covering. Artificial insemination, pregnancy diagnosis, embryo transfer. Pregnancy. Pregnancy diagnosis, twin pregnancies, stages of pregnancy, problems in late pregnancy.
    Parturition. Preparation for foaling, signs of impending labour, first, second and third stage labour, inspection of the membranes. Problem foalings (Dystocia). Care of mare and foal, nutrition, the loose box, exercise. Post-partum problems in the mare.

  • Module 5 Principles of Nursing

    Micro-organisms, bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasitic protozoa, prions, the immune response, immunity.

    Hospital accommodation, loose boxes, heating systems, examination/treatment rooms, induction/recovery box, operating theatre, veterinary equipment, imaging equipment, theatre and recovery, laboratory. Cleaning and maintaining hospital areas. Cleaning and maintaining surgical instruments, sterilisation, autoclaves, post-sterilisation storage, ethylene oxide sterilisers, cold sterilisation.

    Nursing in the Equine Veterinary Hospital. Clinical record keeping, management of the in-patient, nursing plans, behavioural assessments of in-patients, post-operative patient care, fluid therapy, barrier nursing, administering medication. Supply and storage of veterinary medicines. Discharging in-patients.

    Equine First Aid. What is an emergency? Aims of first aid in the horse, safety, triage, ABC of first aid, emergency action, first aid equipment, conditions requiring first aid.

    Wound management, healing, dressings. Bandaging techniques, benefits of bandaging. Treatment of puncture wounds, penetration wounds, contused wounds, tendon injury.

  • Module 6 Pharmacology

    Pharmacy stock management, safe storage of medicines, legal requirements for record keeping of pharmacy stock, ordering, recording, delivery, usage and storage.

    Prescribing and dispensing veterinary medicines. Legal categorisation of veterinary medicines: AVM-GSL: Authorised veterinary medicine – general sales list, NFA-VPS: Non-food animal medicine – veterinarian, pharmacist, POM-VPS: Prescription only medicine – veterinarian, pharmacist, POM-V: Prescription only medicine – veterinarian, Controlled drugs (CD): Schedules 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Veterinary prescribing cascade scheme, controls on marketing of animal medicines, drug data sheets, formulae and common abbreviations used in prescribing and dose calculation.

    Basic pharmacology of commonly used veterinary medicines. Drug categories: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, (steroidal anti-inflammatories), opiate analgesics, bronchodilators and mucolytics, antibacterials, antibacterial resistance, sedative-tranquillisers, anti-ulcer drugs, anthelmintics (endoparasiticides), anthelmintic resistance.

    Local anaesthetics: topical application, perineural injection, intra-articular injection, field block injections, epidural injections.

    Selection and administration of veterinary medicines. Use of prescription drugs in performance horses: equestrian competition, detection times and withdrawal periods, FEI – The Medicine Box.

    Classes of drugs: drug formulation, drug dosage, calculating drug dosages, frequency of dosing, route of administration, intravenous injections, topical application, enteral administration, parenteral administration, post administration, medication and passports, adverse drug reactions.

    Administration: preparation, safe handling and disposal of equipment and drugs used for the administration of injections, nursing observation following the administration of medication.

  • Module 7 Diagnostic Imaging

    Principles of radiation. Formation of X-rays, the X-ray image (radiograph), positioning the cassette, developing the x-ray image. Radiography as a diagnostic tool. Preparation of the patient, labelling an x-ray film, positioning for standard views, contrast media, problems with poor quality x-ray images, digital imaging. Care of the x-ray machine, X-ray storage. Radiation safety: radiation legislation, effects of radiation, radiation protection.

    Imaging techniques used in equine veterinary practice. Ultrasonography: preparing a patient for ultrasonography, how diagnostic ultrasound creates an image. Nuclear (gamma) scintigraphy, bone scan safety, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, thermography, endoscopy, care and cleaning of the endoscope, arthroscopy.

  • Module 8 Laboratory Diagnostics

    Laboratory equipment and safe working practices. Glassware, microscopes, centrifuge, refractometers, analysers, diagnostic aids, cleaning and maintenance. Health and safety in the laboratory, key safety points to observe in the laboratory, laboratory use protocol, personal protective equipment. Disposal of laboratory waste: sharps, liquids, samples.

    Processes involved in the collection and preservation of pathological samples and specimens. Haematology: obtaining blood samples, correct storage of blood, vacutainers. Sample collection; urine and faecal collection: peritoneal and joint taps, skin scrapes, methods and storage. External laboratory analysis: sending samples to external laboratory, packaging postal samples, documentation.

    Processes involved in the processing of pathological samples and specimens. Haematology: manual PCV reading, RBC/WBC counts, preparing a blood smear. Cytology: urine analysis, measuring specific gravity, tracheal washes and bronchioalveolar lavages (BALs), faecal worm egg counts (WEC), bacteriology in practice, bacteriology in Thoroughbred reproduction, reproductive swabbing techniques.

    Biochemical analysis: biochemistry, glucose and electrolytes, serum biochemistry analysis, total protein reading, acid-base balance, muscle enzymes, liver enzymes, blood glucose, renal function, intestinal function..

    Examining skin scrapes: ectoparasites, fungal infections. Faecal analysis: worm egg counts, endoparasites.

    Interpretation of results of laboratory diagnostic tests. Haematology: parameters assessed by haematology analyser, red and blood white cell parameters. Cytology: urine cytology, peritoneal and joint fluid cytology, normal parameters.

  • Module 9 Equine Veterinary Theatre Practice

    Maintaining a surgical theatre environment that is suitable and safe for aseptic procedures. The surgical theatre environment: theatre layout, cleaning the theatre. Instruments: cleaning, maintaining and identifying surgical instruments, autoclaves, packing materials.

    Preparation and positioning of the equine patient prior to surgery. Theatre list, patient preparation, preparing the surgical site, additional preparation of the patient prior to surgery, surgery in foals. Positioning; use of the hoist, positioning the operating table, positioning the horse on the operating table, positioning drapes.

    Preparation of personnel and equipment for surgery. Preparing for surgery: role of the theatre nurse, scrubbing up, gloving and gowning up, closed gloving, open gloving, laying out surgical tables and Mayo stands. Equipment and instruments: basic stitch kit, castration kit, trephining kit, foot care tools, dentistry tools, basic nursing equipment, electrical equipment. Suture materials: absorbable suture materials, non-absorbable materials, suture size, needles for suturing, suture patterns and techniques.

  • Module 10 Veterinary Anaesthesia

    Understand the key principles of anaesthesia in the horse. General anaesthesia: physiological effects associated with general anaesthesia, anaesthetic agents. Total intravenous anaesthesia, monitoring the anaesthetised horse, monitoring field anaesthesia, effects of recumbency, anaesthetic emergencies, recovery.

    Preparation prior to anaesthetising a horse. Anaesthetic machine: breathing circuits, gas supply. Preoperative assessment: catheterisation, pre-emptive analgesia premedication, induction, padded headcollar, eye protection.

    Monitoring an anaesthetised horse. Clinical observation, monitoring of physiological parameters of the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system and core body temperature. Depth of anaesthesia, maintenance, pulse, blood pressure, ECG, mucous membranes, respiration, pulse oximetry, eye position and movement, monitoring field anaesthesia,

    Effects of recumbency: reduced cardiac output, ventilation and tissue perfusion problems post-anaesthetic myopathies and neuropathies. Anaesthetic emergencies: prevalence thereof, respiratory arrest, respiratory arrest, dypnoea or apnoea, cardiac arrest, uncontrolled haemorrhage, obstetric emergencies. The recovery process. Recovery box, positioning, extubation, personnel safety, horse safety, assisted recovery.

  • Module 11 Equine Medical Disorders

    Important non-infectious diseases that affect horses in the United Kingdom. Disorders/disease syndromes of the horse: diagnosis, management and treatment: recurrent airway obstruction, exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage, equine myopathies: exertional rhabdomyolysis, polysaccharide storage myopathy, laminitis, equine dysautonomia (grass sickness), head shaking, sweet itch, colic, gastric ulcers, oesophageal obstruction (choke), liver disease, equine Cushing’s disease, recurrent laryngeal hemiplegia, osteochondrosis. Hyperlipaemia, lymphangitis, enteritis, skin disease. Poisoning.

    Factors involved in the development of disease. Predisposing factors, age, diet, exercise, management, stress, neurology, allergy, toxins, poisoning, hormonal imbalance, frequency of occurrence, environmental factors. Heritability of disease in the horse. Principles of heritability of disease and predisposition to disease. The genetic basis of common equine diseases.

  • Module 12 Equine Neonatal Nursing

    Foal Management. Handling and restraint, leading, touch, transporting the mare and foal, discipline, general management, vaccination, exercise, parasite control, nutrition. The foal at foot, hoof care, passport requirements, weaning, castration.

    The Mare. Lactating mare, nutrition, abnormalities of the udder, insufficient milk production, mastitis, blocked teat canal.

    Equine Neonatal Medical Care. The neonatal foal, immediately post-partum, first hours, bonding, suckling, provision of adequate colostral immunity (IgG), passing meconium. Infective conditions of the newborn foal; neonatal septicaemias, joint-ill, diarrhoea, rotavirus, gastroduodenal ulceration, rhinopneumonitis, pneumonia. Non-infective conditions of the newborn foal: prematurity and dysmaturity, neonatal maladjustment syndromes, meconium retention, colic.

    Congenital abnormalities: entropion, ruptured bladder, button eyes, parrot mouth, hyperflexion (contracted tendons). Immunological conditions: haemolytic disease (jaundiced foal), combined immunodeficiency (CID). Neonatal intensive care: transporting the sick foal, the environment, maintaining body temperature, feeding the sick foal, laboratory support.


Full Payment


  • Awarding body registration: TBC payable on enrolment
  • RCVS Registration: As at January 2020 - £196 payable on enrolment
  • External examination fees payable upon entry - TBC
  • Additional fees apply for assessment resits

Pay as You Learn

£825 Initial Fee

  • 30 Monthly payments of £247.50
  • Awarding body registration: TBC payable on enrolment
  • RCVS Registration: As at January 2020 - £196 payable on enrolment
  • External examination fees payable upon entry - TBC
  • Additional fees apply for assessment resits