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What Do Veterinary Assistants Do?

Veterinary assistants play a crucial role in supporting veterinarians and veterinary technicians. Their responsibilities include caring for animals, assisting veterinarians, and administrative duties. Additionally, the job is among one of the fastest growing professions, with a projected growth rate of 20% between now and 2032.

What Do Veterinary Assistants Do?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical job duties for veterinary assistants can include:

  • Feed, bathe, and exercise animals
  • Clean and disinfect cages, kennels, and examination and operating rooms
  • Restrain animals during examination and laboratory procedures
  • Maintain and sterilize surgical instruments and equipment
  • Monitor and care for animals after surgery
  • Help provide emergency first aid to sick and injured animals
  • Give medication or immunizations that veterinarians prescribe
  • Assist in collecting blood, urine, and tissue samples

Is there a Difference Between A Vet Tech and a Veterinary Assistant?

The main differences between a veterinary assistant and a veterinary technician are in their level of education, training, and scope of responsibilities:

Education and Training: Veterinary Assistants and Veterinary Technicians

  • Veterinary Assistants: Typically, veterinary assistants receive on-the-job training or complete a short vocational program, which may include coursework on animal handling, clinic procedures, and basic veterinary care. Formal education requirements can vary, but most veterinary assistants do not require formal certification or licensure.
    • Veterinary Technicians: Veterinary technicians typically complete a two-year associate degree program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). This education covers a wide range of topics, including animal anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, laboratory procedures, radiology, anesthesia, and surgical assistance. After completing their education, veterinary technicians often need to pass a credentialing exam to become certified or licensed, depending on the state’s requirements.

Responsibilities: Veterinary Assistants and Veterinary Technicians

  • Veterinary Assistants: Veterinary assistants primarily assist veterinarians and veterinary technicians with tasks such as animal handling, clinic maintenance, patient care, client interaction, and basic laboratory work. They work under the direct supervision of veterinarians or veterinary technicians.
    • Veterinary Technicians: Veterinary technicians have a more advanced skill set and a broader scope of responsibilities. They may perform tasks such as conducting physical exams, administering medications, assisting with surgeries and other medical procedures, taking and developing radiographs, performing laboratory tests, and providing nursing care to animals. Veterinary technicians often work more independently and may have a higher level of responsibility in patient care.

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Veterinary Assistant?

A successful veterinary assistant masters the combination of technical skills, interpersonal skills, and personal qualities.  A veterinary assistant must be able to safely and confidently handle animals of different sizes and temperaments. In addition to compassion and a genuine love and care for animals, a vet assistant also needs strong communication skills, excellent attention to detail, the ability to multi-task and juggle multiple tasks efficiently, and work closely with veterinarians and support staff.

While not as extensive as that of veterinary technicians or veterinarians, veterinary assistants should have a basic understanding of animal anatomy, common diseases, and medical terminology to effectively assist with patient care and communicate with veterinary staff.

What is the Typical Day of a Veterinary Assistant?

A typical day for a veterinary assistant can vary depending on factors such as the type of veterinary clinic, caseload, and specific duties assigned. Here is an example of what a day in the life of a veterinary assistant might look like:

Morning Preparation:

  • Arrive at the clinic early to prepare for the day’s appointments and procedures.
    • Check messages, review the schedule, and gather necessary equipment and supplies.

Patient Care:

  • Assist with admitting and discharging patients, including weighing animals, obtaining medical histories, and updating patient records.
    • Help with feeding, grooming, and exercising animals as needed.
    • Administer medications or treatments under the direction of the veterinarian or veterinary technician.

Assisting with Examinations and Procedures:

  • Assist veterinarians and veterinary technicians during physical examinations, vaccinations, and other routine procedures.
    • Prepare exam rooms and equipment for appointments.
    • Hold and restrain animals during examinations and treatments, ensuring their safety and comfort.

Laboratory and Diagnostic Testing:

  • Collect and prepare samples for laboratory testing, such as blood or urine samples.
    • Assist with diagnostic procedures, including taking and developing radiographs (X-rays) or performing basic laboratory tests.

Client Interaction:

  • Greet clients and assist with checking in and out for appointments.
    • Provide basic information to clients about procedures, treatments, and medications.
    • Answer phones, schedule appointments, and relay messages to veterinary staff as needed.

Clinic Maintenance:

  • Clean and disinfect exam rooms, treatment areas, and cages to maintain a sanitary environment.
    • Restock supplies and ensure equipment is properly maintained and functioning.
    • Assist with laundry, waste disposal, and other general clinic maintenance tasks.

Team Collaboration:

  • Communicate effectively with veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and other support staff to ensure smooth workflow and patient care.
    • Collaborate with colleagues to prioritize tasks and address any urgent or emergent cases.

End of Day Responsibilities:

  • Assist with closing procedures, including cleaning up after the day’s appointments and securing the clinic for the night.
    • Complete any remaining administrative tasks, such as updating patient records or filing paperwork.
    • Review the schedule for the following day and prepare any necessary materials or equipment.

Is Being a Veterinary Assistant Stressful?

Being a veterinary assistant can be both rewarding and challenging. Most veterinary assistants find their work deeply rewarding due to their love for animals and the opportunity to make a positive difference in their lives.

Because a veterinary assistant works in a fast-paced environment, some of the greatest stresses often involve emergencies, sick or injured animals, or distressed pet owners. Even though there are both physical and emotional challenges for vet assistants, being able to help animals is among the top reasons cited for job satisfaction.

Are you interested in becoming a veterinary assistant, or are you looking for a veterinary assistant job? Find out how Suveto is changing the industry and find your next vet assistant job.

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