How to become a veterinary assistant

How to become a veterinary assistant

If you would like to work with animals for a career, why not become a veterinary assistant? Unlike the veterinarian, you don’t need a medical degree or specialized training. All it takes is a love of animals and a willingness to learn basic care and treatment procedures.

When you hire into a veterinarian office, you will be oriented to the practice’s standard operating procedures (SOP) and perhaps given an office procedure manual to study. You may be assigned to another staff member who will teach you how to handle the “patients” (sick or healthy) that are brought in for visits. Aggressive dogs may need to be muzzled, or you might be expected to wear heavy leather gloves when handling cats or raccoons that can scratch or bite.

An assistant’s job typically involves duties like these:

1. Clerical tasks. You may answer the telephone, schedule appointments, check email, update the Web site, send bills, pay invoices, order medicines, and supplies, verify client appointments, and greet visitors. You may be asked to design promotional or informational literature for clients or vendors.

2. Medical assistant. After greeting clients, you may be expected to pull the chart and update it with new information like address or telephone number as well as names of current household pets. You may then lead the owner and pet to a scale for weighing and an examination room and double-check the presenting animal’s data, such as name, age, chronic conditions, and current symptoms. You may be able to draw routine lab work or check stool specimens for worms or parasites.

3. Surgical assistant. With additional training, your role may change to include more medical support. For example, the veterinarian may want your help with preparing animals for surgery, whether to suture a wound or neuter the animal to eliminate reproduction risks. You might assist at births, help to coordinate anesthesia or assist with euthanasia.

4. Patient education. While you won’t be able to train animals, you can talk to owners about the proper care and treatment of their pets. For example, an aging dog’s diet may need to include additional nutrients. Or a spirited pup might benefit from obedience training. You also will have to instruct owners about pre-op and post-op care, along with the administration of various medications, treatments, or observations.

5. Coach or mentor. At the close of a visit, your job may require that you console, praise, or guide parents through a pet’s condition or care. You may need to issue medications or nutritional supplements, along with supplies or instructions. Along with collecting payment for the visit, you can print reminders for upcoming pet needs, such as shots, de-worming, or other treatment. Follow-up appointments also may need to be scheduled.

Working for a veterinarian practice is a rewarding job for those who love animals. Visit a vet to get a sense of how the business works, and ask to shadow an assistant for part of the day to find out more about what this job entails.

Working for a veterinarian

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