You likely are familiar with most veterinary team member tasks to care for your pet, but veterinary assistants often perform behind-the-scenes and you may never know what they do. Unlike veterinary receptionists and veterinarians, who are the faces of a hospital, veterinary assistants provide top-notch care for pets without much interaction with pet owners. However, we couldn’t help nearly as many pets without our talented veterinary assistants and their support and expertise.
Because our dedicated veterinary assistants provide nursing care “in the back,” you may not see them much, or understand what they do. To shed light on how these team members are essential for a smooth-running day and gold-standard pet care, let’s follow a veterinary assistant through a typical day at Urgent Pet Care Omaha.
A day in the life of a veterinary assistant
As the day starts and the doors open, an owner rushes inside with their injured pet and frantically calls for help. A veterinary assistant rushes up, gets the owner’s permission to take the pet to a veterinarian for immediate care, and carefully carries the pet to our veterinarian. During the veterinarian’s exam, the assistant soothes the hurt dog, who appears to be suffering from a broken leg after being hit by a car. The veterinarian asks for pain medication, and then orders X-rays to see the extent of the dog’s injury. The veterinary technician calculates and draws up the drugs, and the assistant restrains the dog for an intravenous (IV) injection, which will provide the fastest pain relief. Once the drugs have been administered, the veterinary assistant sits with the dog, closely monitoring them for adverse reactions, and ensuring the pain relief is taking effect.
When the dog is relaxed and comfortable, the veterinary assistant informs the technician the patient is ready for X-rays. Together, they lift the dog onto the X-ray table without jostling the injured leg, and position the patient for the necessary views. The veterinarian evaluates the X-rays, and determines the dog requires surgery to repair the fractured leg. The assistant-technician team quickly prepares the surgical and anesthetic supplies for the procedure. The assistant helps the technician with vital tasks, such as IV catheter placement and anesthetic induction, and quickly gathers more supplies that the technician or surgeon will need.
Once the surgery is complete, the dog is placed in the recovery ward and the assistant carefully monitors the pet until they are fully awake. While the dog recovers from the anesthesia, the assistant keeps a close eye on their vital signs and comfort level to ensure a smooth, pain-free, and uneventful recovery. They keep the patient warm, clean, and calm, and inform the technician or veterinarian if anything goes awry.
After the dog is awake, the veterinary assistant provides supportive nursing care when they take them outside to go to the bathroom, keeps the kennel clean, dry, and well-padded, and offers them food and water. The assistant also tracks the pet’s changes in behavior, pain level, and eating, drinking, and elimination habits. During the dog’s hospitalization, multiple medications are required, which the assistant administers.
Overall, veterinary assistants function as the technician’s right hand, jumping in as needed to help restrain, soothe, and care for pets. They provide an excellent level of supportive care, and are often a patient’s main nurse throughout their visit.
How can you become a veterinary assistant?
A veterinary assistant job is not easy, but incredibly important, and helps support the entire veterinary care team and the patients. Becoming a veterinary assistant also is no easy task. Our veterinary assistants have many qualities that make them exceptional at their job. We look for the following skill sets in our veterinary assistants:
- Listening skills — Careful listening is vital for understanding and following patient care instructions, as well as for conversing with pet owners.
- Attention to detail — Paying attention to every detail can make a world of difference in a pet’s condition by noticing the most subtle change and quickly bringing the information to our veterinarians’ attention.
- Empathy — A kind, compassionate veterinary assistant who is devoted to caring for pets and their owners alike must be empathetic.
- Problem-solving — Veterinary assistants must have this ability, since working with animals often requires thinking outside the box to provide a solution.
- Staying calm — The ability to remain calm in an emergency is key for a veterinary assistant working at Urgent Pet Care Omaha, since we often work in a chaotic environment where we must not panic.
These qualities provide a great start for becoming a veterinary assistant. Unlike a veterinary technician or veterinarian, no advanced education is needed, but certification programs are available. Most veterinary assistant experience comes from training on the job, but certain courses, such as anatomy, physiology, and animal science classes, can help you understand and be prepared for much of what you see in a veterinary hospital. Over time, as you become more skilled and efficient, you may decide to further your education and become a veterinary technician or veterinarian, so you can perform more advanced care.
If your primary care veterinarian is not available for your pet’s urgent care, call Urgent Pet Care Omaha, and you’ll see our incredible veterinary assistants in action. Every team member is highly skilled and trained to provide your four-legged friend with top-level care, which is critical during an emergency. Contact our team if your pet requires immediate or after-hours veterinary care.