A training programme designed to equip newly-qualified RVNs with the skills and knowledge to work in specialist-led referral practice has more than doubled in size since it launched last year.

The Linnaeus referral nursing post-registration programme (PRP) took its first cohort of 14 nurses in 2020 at five hospitals – Wear Referrals, Paragon Veterinary Referrals, Eastcott Referrals, Davies Veterinary Specialists and North Downs Specialist Referrals.

In doing so it became the first veterinary nursing preceptorship in the UK, mirroring the schemes commonly seen in human healthcare.

The year-long programme has just restarted with its second intake of 22 nurses and with a further 16 set to be recruited for a March intake, the total cohort for the year will stand at 38.

The expanded programme now runs over eight sites, with the original five joined by Southfields Veterinary Specialists, Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service and Cave Veterinary Specialists.

Sophie Venables, PRP manager for Linnaeus, said: “We’ve quickly grown from a cohort of 14 nurses last year to 22 this year – and we had nearly 50 applicants for those places, too.

“The second intake started in September and because RVNs qualify at all points of the year, we’re looking to introduce the next cohort of 16 in March.

“The programme has already shown its worth in helping new nurses reach their full potential after qualifying, giving them the opportunity to gain invaluable experience in referral practice with support from preceptors and skills supervisors every step of the way. We’re excited to see how it continues to develop.”

One of the programme’s first cohort, Catherine Adamson, joined Wear Referrals in May 2017 as an auxiliary nurse before training as an RVN.

After completing her diploma at East Durham College and her OSCEs, she became an RVN and joined the post-registration programme.

She said: “The PRP was a one-year course specifically in internal medicine, which was the department I gravitated towards during my SVN training and wanted to gain more experience in.

“The programme helped my confidence massively, as I was given the help and support I needed during my first year of being qualified.

“The PRP also assisted with networking and helped me understand more than just the practical side of nursing. It has shown me how to write articles, complete audits and knowledge summaries, and has improved my confidence in myself and my work.”

Andrea Jeffery, chief nursing officer for Linnaeus, said: “We are delighted with the speed the PRP has grown, which really demonstrates its value to the industry and vindicates the work we are doing to advance veterinary nursing as a profession.

“To have more than 50 people apply for this year’s intake is testament to how its reputation has quickly become established.

“Providing a platform for new nurses to learn their craft at some of the industry’s best referral hospitals is a compelling offer and we’re optimistic the programme will continue to gain momentum.”