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May is Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month – What RVNs do in Theatre

By Ash Tree Vets | 9th May 2019

The role of a Veterinary Nurse in Theatre


Throughout May we aim to bring you a small insight into the Veterinary Nurse profession.

We’ve already detailed some of what goes on via our fantastic facebook page. Why not click here and give us a ‘like’ so you can keep up to date with everything that goes on.

This article is an opportunity for us to share with you just a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes when our nurses are in Theatre.


The veterinary nurse plays an integral role in every surgical or diagnostic procedure at Ash Tree Vets. The “Scrub nurse” and “Circulating nurse” must work together closely with the “Theatre nurse” to maintain a high standard of care.

What are these different roles we here you ask? Well, in a nutshell, the Scrub Nurse assists the vet with the procedure itself, a Circulating Nurse moves between prep room, kennels and theatre to assist in setting up and the provision of all consumables, medications, equipment etc, and the Theatre Nurse is in charge of the day to day running of the Hospital, and for monitoring the anaesthetics.


The nurses role in Theatre includes, but is in no way limited to

  • routine hygiene – a deep clean of the theatre is required every day
  • checking environmental controls are within acceptable levels;
  • testing all equipment is functioning and available (theatre lights, diathermy, suction, anaesthetic equipment etc);
  • waste provisions are provided
  • organisation of equipment and supplies in an appropriate order
  • preparing and setting up any instrumentation and equipment
  • preparing instruments, trolleys and sterile supplies
  • checking instrument kits, including counting and functional testing
  • maintaining an aseptic environment
  • providing skilled assistance to the surgeon
  • tissue handling and retracting
  • awareness of potential complications and patient considerations


A considerable amount of preparation and planning by the nurses is required before, during and after any procedure, and the nurses always require a complete understanding of the steps involved to complete the procedure.


The scrub nurse (if required) needs to wear surgical gownss, surgical hat, face mask and surgical overshoes. A full surgical ‘scrub’ (a specialised hand disinfecting technique) will be performed before donning sterile surgical gloves, and then entering theatre to assist the operating Vet.


It is also the nurse’s role to surgically prepare each patient. This included clipping away hair from the surgical site, and aseptically preparing the skin.


All of these skills are not only examined in theory, but in practical exams too before a nurse can pass their final exams to qualify as a Registered Veterinary Nurse.


If all of the above wasn’t enough, these nurses also need to be able to anticipate upcoming situations and make appropriate decisions, they require excellent communication skills, and above all, the ability to multitask.


We think you would all agree, these ladies are heroes in green!