You might regard a veterinary assistant as the licensed practical nurse of the animal care world. You'll have lots of opportunities for hands-on patient care, such as helping the veterinarian perform routine exams and observing Fido's or Fluffy's vital signs after surgery. You'll also perform many behind-the-scenes tasks that help the hospital provide better service to its animal patients. Your well-stocked veterinary assistant tool kit helps you excel at your job.
Charts, Notepads and Pens
A veterinarian regards her animal patient's chart as a valuable diagnostic and treatment tool. Depending on Fido's or Fluffy's age and treatment history, the chart might contain just a few entries or may go on for many pages. During each appointment, the vet may ask you to record the pet's vital signs and symptoms while she examines him. If you keep extra charts, notepads and pens within reach, the vet won't have to hold a squirming pet while you rummage through cabinets for charting supplies.
Nail Clipping Essentials
You work hard to make your nails look their very best. As a veterinary assistant, you can help Fido and Fluffy keep their nails in tip-top shape, too. You'll probably be clipping dozens of doggie nails each day, and you may even encounter a few sets of kitty claws. To work your magic, you'll need nail clippers sized for small and large pets. Even though you're an ace nail trimmer, a squirmy pet can lead to a minor mishap from time to time. Keep a jar of styptic powder, or a similar special-purpose product, on hand to stop that little spot of blood in its tracks. Finally, animal patients have bad days, too. Place a properly sized muzzle on Fido or Fluffy, and you should be able to safely complete the nail trim.
Pet Care Info
A veterinarian often concludes a patient appointment by providing the pet's owner with pet health and preventive care information. This is where you come in, as the vet may ask you to gather pet care brochures and instruction sheets from the hospital's files. While you're discussing the finer points of teeth cleaning and spay/neuter services, you'll probably learn some interesting little tidbits about Fido or Fluffy, too. Now you've got the perfect opportunity to suggest a follow-up vet appointment.
Lab Test Must-Haves
A veterinarian frequently orders an urinalysis or fecal exam as part of a routine pet exam or to help her diagnose a pet's ailment. To obtain the urine sample, you'll need to follow the pet with a special-purpose cup, choosing the right moment to gather the specimen. You'll obtain the fecal sample using the same general approach; however, you can wait until the pet has finished his business before scooping up a sample in a clean plastic container or bag. You'll test the urine and fecal samples in the hospital's lab, looking for parasites or other unwelcome visitors. Although you may not find these activities especially appealing, your lab results help the vet diagnose Fido's or Fluffy's problem so she can recommend the best treatment.
Cleaners, Towels and Mops
You might be surprised to learn that a veterinary assistant lists cleaning supplies as important patient care tools. A spotless veterinary hospital provides a healthier environment for your animal patients and more pleasant working conditions for the hospital staff. This means you'll be disinfecting exam rooms and operating room tables after each patient. You might also improve your floor mopping skills, since dirty, germy floors aren't hygienic, either. Put on a good pair of gloves to protect your hands and nails, roll up your sleeves, and wipe away.
Your veterinary hospital employer, typically a veterinarian or her practice manager, can make your job much easier by keeping a good stock of supplies in their proper places. You'll record your patient information more easily if your charts and writing supplies are close at hand. If your employer has stashed pet care brochures and instruction sheets in a convenient spot, you'll look polished and professional when you gather them for Fido's or Fluffy's owner. You'll complete your cleaning tasks more quickly if your employer stocks a generous inventory of cleaners, towels and specialty supplies. Have plenty of gloves and protective gear so you can stay safe while you make the hospital shine.
- United States Bureau of Labor Statistics: Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers
- I Seek Careers: Veterinary Assistants
- Healthy Paws Veterinary Center: Job Description: Veterinary Technician Assistant
- Northcoast Medical Training Academy: What Does a Veterinary Assistant Do?
- Redmond Veterinary Clinic: Veterinary Assistant Job Description
Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.