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BTEC First Diploma: Equine Nursing Assistant

Enrolments open for entry in March 2018 

Enrolment deadline: 15th December 2017 – apply early to secure your place! 

March 2018 cohort Induction Study Week: 21st – 24th May 2018

This level 2 course is designed as an introduction to the field of equine veterinary nursing.

It is ideal for those:

  • interested in becoming an equine veterinary nurse with no prior nursing experience
  • interested in horses and wanting to find out more about veterinary nursing
  • just starting out in a nursing career
  • learners in the early stage of their equine training aspiring to work, or already working with, horses either in a veterinary practice, welfare organisation or equestrian establishment
  • learners aspiring to train towards the City and Guilds Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Equine Pathway)
  • whilst the majority of learners are likely to be of school-leaving age, this qualification will also be of interest to mature students seeking a new career opportunity

Qualification Aims

This qualification focuses on providing the skills needed for those with responsibility for the care of sick, injured and/or neglected horses and aims to:

  • provide the skills needed by those who assist with the care of horses, and will be suitable for those aspiring to, or already working with horses whether in a veterinary practice, welfare organisation or equestrian establishment
  • provide a recognised qualification for equine support staff

It will provide the foundation knowledge required for those interested in progression to:

  • a career in Equine Veterinary Nursing
  • admission on to the City and Guilds Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing training programme
  • TOCES’ BTEC Advanced Certificate: Equine Nursing Technician


Programme Structure

Enrolment includes BEVA membership

Programme specifications
Academic Level: Further Education Level 2
Number of units/modules: 6
Study Hours per Unit: 60
Total Hours:  360
Course Duration:  Maximum of 18 months to complete course requirements
Study Week Requirements: 2x compulsory 4 day study weeks
Awarding body information

Pearson (BTEC) are the UK’s largest awarding body and are regulated by Ofqual (England), SQA Accreditation (Scotland), CCEA Accreditation (Northern Ireland) and Qualifications Wales (Wales). Pearson offer academic and vocational qualifications that are globally recognised and benchmarked.

TOCES bespoke designed courses accredited by Pearson (BTEC), are on the Self Regulating Framework (SRF).  When selecting a course with a view to using it as an entry qualification for other higher education institutions (HEIs) it is important to check their entry criteria and confirm that they will accept SRF programmes as well as QCF programmes. This course is on the SRF.

Study Weeks

March 2017 cohort

Study week 2: 27th – 30th November 2017

September 2017 cohort

Study week 1: 20th – 23rd November 2017

Study week 2: 16th – 19th July 2018

March 2018 cohort

Study week 1: 21st – 24th May 2018

Entry criteria
  • 14 years old or older
  • No formal qualifications are required
  • Must undertake at least 80 hours of work experience (paid or unpaid) within a veterinary practice with equine provision. The 80 hours can be spread across the duration of the programme – it does not need to be undertaken in one block
Work experience requirements
  • Students must undertake at least 80 hours of work experience (paid or unpaid) within a veterinary practice with equine provision
  • The 80 hours can be spread across the duration of the programme – it does not need to be undertaken in one block
  • Work experience does not need to be arranged prior to enrolment
  • While most work experience should be spent in equine practice, work experience can include shadowing your own equine veterinarian and spending some time in other types of veterinary practice i.e. small or large animal
  • Veterinary practices do not need to be an RCVS accredited training practice
Assessment method
  • Each module includes two written work assignments – a Formative Work Assignment and a Summative Work Assignment
  • College based theory written assessments
  • College based practical assessments
Module 1 Introduction to Equine Anatomy and Physiology

1        Recognise structures of equine musculo-skeletal anatomy 

The skeleton: axial skeleton (skull and spine); appendicular skeleton (forelimb; hind leg; lower limb; foot; pelvis)

Structures of the foot: hoof wall; sole; frog; white line; digital cushion; laminae; normal functions of the foot

Joints: types of joint; classification of synovial joints; location of joints

Muscles: skeletal muscles; composition of skeletal muscle; location and functions of the main muscles; deep and superficial muscles; head and neck; shoulder and trunk; forearm; hindquarters

Tendons and ligaments of the lower leg: extensor tendons; flexor tendons; suspensory ligament


2         Know the structure and functions of the equine circulatory and respiratory systems

Circulatory systems: functions of the circulatory system; blood; plasma; red blood cells; white blood cells; granulocytes; agranulocytes; platelets; blood vessels; arteries; veins; capillaries; heart; cardiac cycle; circulation of blood; pulmonary circulation; systemic circulation

Respiratory system: the functions of the respiratory system; anatomy of the respiratory tract; upper respiratory tract; lower respiratory tract; respiration; external respiration; gaseous exchange; internal (tissue) respiration; anaerobic respiration


3       Be aware of the equine systems of control

Nervous system: the structure of the nervous system; central nervous system; the brain; spinal cord; peripheral nervous system; nerve cells; nerve impulses

Sensory system: sight; structure of the eye; hearing; the structure of the ear; sense of smell (olfaction); olfactory structures; taste; structure of the mouth; sensitivity to touch; structure of the skin; modifications of the skin; sensory functions of the skin; non-sensory functions of the skin


4       Know the structure and functions of the equine urogenital tract

Urinary system: function and structure of the system (kidneys; cortex; medulla; renal pelvis; ureter; bladder; urethra; functions of the kidneys; composition of urine)

Mare’s reproductive system: vulva; vagina; cervix; uterus; fallopian tubes; ovaries

Stallion’s reproductive system: penis; testes; vas deferens

Mammary system: mammary glands, teats, milk production.

Module 2 Health and Safety in the Equine Veterinary Hospital

1          Outline the main responsibilities of employers and employees in terms of health and safety in the workplace

Understanding Health and Safety:  what health and safety is, why is it relevant and who is responsible for it. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employee training, consequences of poor workplace health and safety practices


2          Outline key regulations within health and safety legislation that have an impact on working practices in the equine veterinary practice

Key Regulations and Guidance: manual handling, employees’ duties in 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), requirements of the regulations


3          Identify the principle risks to health and safety in the equine veterinary practice

Zoonotic diseases: causes and prevention, zoonotic diseases, 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

Working with radiation: radiation protection, the controlled area, monitoring of designated persons


4          Describe how risks to health and safety can be managed and reduced in the context of equine veterinary nursing practice

Managing Health and Safety:  management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, risk assessment, how to assess the risks, controlling the risks, reviewing the risks, risk areas in the veterinary practice, risks when handling horses

Module 3 Employability and Study Skills

1   Identify own learning style and appraise skills set

Learning styles:  VARK questionnaire,

Skills set:


2    Research and present information effectively in a range of formats

Study skills: Learning styles and strategies, methods of learning and retaining information, effective note-taking, sources of reference material and how to access them, reflective practice

Presenting information:  letter writing, essays, presentations, group seminars,


3    Demonstrate employability skills

Personal presentation:  appropriate clothing, personal appearance, tidiness, hygiene, attitude,

Working as part of a team:  communication, identify the organisational team structure and hierarchy within the veterinary hospital, roles of the veterinary surgeon, veterinary nurse, nursing technician and nursing assistant

Time management: strategies to include planning study time

Organisational skills: planning study time and materials, appropriate task prioritisation in the context of routine nursing work and academic study


4   Demonstrate effective communication skills

Communication skills:    methods of communication; verbal, written, body language, listening; active listening

Communication styles:  aggressive communicators; passive communicators; passive-aggressive communicators; assertive communicators

Dealing with difficult clients/emotions:   empathy; non-verbal empathic response; practice and feedback; dealing with the angry client

Breaking bad news in the veterinary consultation: preparation; initiating the consultation; responding to emotional cues; blocking behaviours; giving information; closing the consultation; Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ guidance on communication when providing veterinary services

Module 4 Horse Health and Management in the Clinical Environment

1       Understand factors essential for maintaining horse health

Prohylactic (preventative) management: routine hoof care; shoeing; signs indicating a horse needs re-shoeing; methods of shoeing; hot shoeing process; removes or refits; points to look for in a well shod foot

Worming:  signs of heavy worm infestation; ways in which parasites affect health; large strongyles; small strongyles; ascarids; tapeworm; bots; control of worm infestation; administering wormers; anthelmintics; resistance; care of the teeth;

Care of the teeth: need for good dental management; problems which can occur; rasping

Vaccinations:  equine influenza; tetanus; equine herpes virus


2       Recognise health status indicators in the horse

 Examination to assess health status: health indicators; demeanour; attitude; responsiveness; temperature; pulse; respiratory rates (TPR); respiratory rate and character; respiratory system examination;  pulse (heart) rate; submandibular (facial) artery; transverse facial artery; coccygeal arteries; digital arteries; pulse rate; temperature; fever; mucous membranes; hydration status; cardiac examination; ocular examination; abdominal examination; normal excretion; micturition or urination (staling); appetite and water intake; skin and coat; condition; condition scoring; wounds and injuries; the limbs; gait abnormalities; abnormalities of the limb; signs of pain


3     Handle and restrain horses in the veterinary setting

Handling horses:  equipment, PPE, methods of restraint, Chifney, twitching, stocks, sedation, handling techniques – adult horses, youngsters, foals


4     Present and lunge a horse for lameness assessment

Equipment:     Bridle, cavesson, lunge line, whip, select brushing boots as appropriate

Trot up method:  Walk and trot horse as directed with appropriate level of impulsion, turn horse correctly

Lungeing method:  Lunge horse effectively and safely at walk and trot


Module 5 Equine Nutrition

1   Understand the digestive physiology of the horse

Digestive tract: mouth; pharynx (throat); oesophagus; stomach; small intestine; large intestine

Nutrients: macronutrients; carbohydrates; lipids; proteins; water. Micronutrients; vitamins; minerals; supplements


2     Recognise feedstuffs and understand their role in the equine diet

Feedstuffs: cereals – oats; barley; maize.  Protein feeds – milk powder; beans and peas; linseed.  Bulk feeds – bran; sugar beet pulp; grass meal; chaff.  Compound feeds – cubes; coarse mixes.  Food preparation; whole barley; linseed; bran mash; forages; hay.


3          Know differing feeding requirements of healthy adult horses

Feed requirements:  rules of feeding; feed rations

Feeding at different life stages:   lactating mare, pregnant mare


4          Understand feed requirements of horses in the clinical setting

Differing regimes for a range of health statuses:    Horses on box rest, recovering from colic surgery, recovering from orthopaedic surgery, laminitics

Module 6 Nursing Support in the Equine Veterinary Hospital

1    Understand the design and layout of the equine veterinary hospital

Hospital design:  lorry park, reception areas, nurses’ station, exam boxes, treatment boxes, hospital boxes, turn out paddocks, ICU, mare and foal unit, knock down box, surgeons’ prep areas, operating theatres, recovery box, scintigraphy unit, radiography, MRI, storage rooms, pharmacy

Functions of different areas of the hospital and hospital equipment.


2    Understand how in-patients should be nursed within the equine veterinary hospital

Principles of nursing in the equine veterinary hospital: clinical record keeping; admission form; equine passports; informed consent; clinical records; daily record sheet; abbreviations used in clinical record keeping; management of the in-patient; changes to in-patient parameters; nursing plans; behavioural assessments of in-patients; post-operative patient care.

Management of the in-patient: the stable; warmth; feeding; water; grooming; administering medication; methods of administration; topical application; enteral administration; parenteral administration; supply and storage of veterinary medicines; controlled drugs (CD); ordering medication; storing medicines; discharging in-patients


3    Be aware of infection control measures within the equine veterinary hospital

Cleaning and maintaining areas of the hospital: general; hospital box hygiene; examination/treatment areas; operating theatre

Cleaning and maintaining surgical instruments: safety when handling instruments; cleaning instruments; ultrasonic cleaning; lubricating instruments; sterilisation; autoclaves; loading the autoclave; running a sterilisation cycle; monitoring autoclave efficiency; post-sterilisation storage; ethylene oxide sterilisers; cold sterilisation

Barrier nursing: the isolation box/yard; equipment; the handler; general yard hygiene


4    Know the principles of equine first aid

Equine first aid: aims of first aid; safety; triage; ABC of first aid; emergency action; equine first aid kit; dressings; cleansing; antibiotic and topical agents; conditions requiring first aid; gastrointestinal tract conditions requiring first aid; urogenital tract conditions requiring first aid; neurological conditions requiring first aid

Bandaging techniques:  benefits of bandaging; treatment of puncture wounds; punctured sole; puncture wounds; penetration wounds; contused wounds; tendon injury

Wound management: open wounds; closed wounds; ocular injuries.  Wound healing; types of wound healing; control of bleeding; veterinary management

Full Payment

  • Online access to all course materials
  • Tutor support
  • Two four day study weeks
  • Does not include accommodation, breakfast and evening meals
  • Printing and postage fees (optional)
  • BTEC Registration fee £137.80 payable upon enrolment
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