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Veterinary assistants usually work in clinics and animal hospitals, where they perform a wide range of tasks to assist in caring for sick and injured animals. Unlike veterinary technicians and technologists, a postsecondary education is not traditionally required to become a veterinary assistant. However, in 2010 the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America founded a veterinary assistant approval program. Students who complete this program at approved schools can complete an examination to earn the title of Approved Veterinary Assistant.
Veterinary assistants are active on the job, and most tasks require physical skills. Dexterity is necessary to handle both delicate lab equipment and scared or hurt animals. A busy day can keep veterinary assistants on their feet for long hours, so physical stamina is a must. They should also be able to lift and move both animals and equipment.
Though they don’t make decisions about how to care for animals, as do veterinarians, veterinary assistants still must follow instructions to provide first aid to animal patients. They often administer medication and immunizations to animals. Training for these tasks occurs on the job; however, veterinary assistants should have a basic understanding of and interest in concepts related to biology, medicine and dentistry.
Veterinary assistants use a variety of technical machinery in their daily tasks, which include taking and developing x-rays and cleaning and maintaining other equipment in the workplace. In addition, they should be comfortable enough with computers to use medical software and basic office and spreadsheet programs.
Though they are trained on the job, veterinary assistants should have some basic personal qualities and skills to ensure a successful career. They need to be compassionate toward both animals and their owners in order to provide effective care and education. Dispensing medication and following specific instructions requires strict attention to detail, and strong listening and communication skills is a benefit to working with coworkers. In addition, veterinary assistants should have a strong customer service orientation, especially when greeting clients and making phone calls.
Samantha Ley writes career and education articles for various online publications. She also works in social media management and creates test materials and other educational content for various companies. Ley holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Kenyon College and an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia.