Why do vet nurses resign?

A new CVS study has revealed what makes UK vet nurses quit their jobs–or quit the sector altogether. It’s the first study of its kind to analyse practice data rather than polling nurses, and aims to help the industry retain these indispensable professionals.

Why vet nurses quit, and why they stay: the numbers

According to the study, nurses’ top six reasons for resigning are:

  1. Career progression (36.7%)
  2. Personal reasons (12.9%)
  3. Pay and benefits (11.9%)
  4. Work-life balance (10.1%)
  5. Relocation (6.8%)
  6. Not coming back from parental leave (3.6%).

The study also revealed the top factors that reduce the odds of resignation:

  1. Longer employment tenure
  2. Workplaces with good property and facilities ratings
  3. Role: student nurses and head nurses resign least

The findings on role make it even more important to support career progression for nurses. As in other healthcare professions, the study also found that the employee engagement metric (eNPS) was reliably associated with better employee retention.

How can practices retain vet nurses?

With little objective data available on why vet nurses quit, this research could make a significant difference. Imogen Schofield, a statistician at CVS, has seen employee engagement rise and attrition fall since implementing the insights from the study at her own organisation. They’ve focused on:

  • Developing career development pathways for nurses
  • Employee wellbeing programmes
  • A variety of new benefits
  • Significant investment in practices

If you’re unsure where to start with retaining your nurses, here are a few key points to focus on:

  • Pay well. Make sure you meet or exceed industry pay benchmarks for vet nurses, and offer bonuses, regular raises, and promotions to good performers. While it may be painful in the current economic climate, it will pay for itself many times over when they feel valued and want to stay. 
  • Establish healthy boundaries. Do your nurses get proper lunch breaks? Are their concerns listened to and addressed? Are duties shared out fairly? Is overtime genuinely optional? Is mental health support available? If the answer to any of these is “no”, you know your next steps to increasing employee retention.
  • Use their skills to the full. Vet nurses are highly trained professionals, yet much of their day may consist of donkey work like cleaning, doing laundry, and feeding patients. Give them more meaningful responsibilities if you want them to feel respected and fulfilled in their career.

The CVS study analysed anonymised data from 1642 nurses across 418 practices. 278 (16.9%) of these nurses resigned in 2021. Thanks to these insights, we can hope to see this number fall in the next few years.


If you are a Veterinary Nurse who is seeking a role that offers career progression, work-life balance and a great company culture, get in touch. We work closely with our candidates to ensure we find the right role for you. We look forward to hearing from you.

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