Veterinary nurses, also known as veterinary technicians, work under the supervision of a veterinarian to help treat and care for injured or sick animals. Much like a nurse helping a doctor, a veterinary nurse performs many of the same duties a veterinarian does during the treatment of an injured or ill animal. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterinary technologists and technicians earned a median annual salary of $29,710 in May 2010. Employment is expected to grow 52 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the 14 percent growth projected for all occupations.
There are many jobs around the clinic for a veterinary nurse. You'll need to hold the animals and help calm them down during checkups and while treatment is being administered. Every animal in your care will need a nursing plan. If they need blood, urine or other samples, it's the nurse's job to obtain the samples and, in many cases, do the lab work in the clinic. Animals might also need X-rays, stitches removed or vaccines administered. The veterinary nurse is responsible for sterilizing instruments and equipment before surgery and assisting during operations. If an animal needs emergency first aid, the veterinary nurse needs to be able to administer it.
Anyone entering veterinary nursing should like working with animals since a large part of the job is hands-on. A veterinary nurse is responsible for caring for the animals staying in the clinic. This can include feeding animals, cleaning their cages, grooming them and taking them out for exercise. It can also include observing the behavior and condition of animals. Medications and injections must be administered at the correct time, and post-op animals need to be monitored to ensure that any complications are caught quickly. Animals that are scheduled for surgery need to be prepped, which means shaving animals before spaying them or ensuring they don't have food before surgery. In biomedical labs or other research facilities, veterinary nurses might ensure that all animals are treated humanely.
Administrative and People-Related Duties
In addition to helping with animals, veterinary nurses update owners on their pets' progress and dispense advice about proper animal care. At a smaller clinic, you might be expected to take on reception or administrative duties and handle extra paperwork. The position usually requires collecting, recording and maintaining case histories. If furry patients are panicking in the waiting room or not getting along, you might have to step in and help get the animals under control.
A veterinary nurse might work for a private clinic, animal hospital, testing lab, rescue league, boarding kennel, biomedical lab, zoo or government entity. Although helping sick or injured animals recover is a rewarding achievement, the job does present certain challenges. Nursing animals back to health can be emotionally and physically demanding. A veterinary nurse's day may involve helping to euthanize an abused animal or helping an owner deal with the loss of a beloved family pet. Handling sick or injured animals presents the risk of being bitten or scratched.
Darlene Peer has been writing, editing and proofreading for more than 10 years. Peer has written for magazines and contributed to a number of books. She has worked in various fields, from marketing to business analysis. Peer received her Bachelor of Arts in English from York University.