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A veterinary technician assists veterinarians in providing medical care for veterinary patients. Veterinary technicians have the primary responsibility for administering nearly all medications to hospitalized patients, so it's vital a veterinary technician understands the math involved with dispensing medications. An understanding of medical math reduces errors and can save lives.
A veterinarian will give a written order to a veterinary technician to administer a dose to a patient. However, the veterinarian may give the order in one unit while the actual medication may be in another. For example, the order may prescribe 1 tsp. while the medication bottle is labeled in milliliters. A veterinary technician must be able to accurately convert between one unit of measurement and another in order to give the patient a safe and effective dose of medication.
Calculating Volume and Solutions
Calculating volume and solutions is a part of the day-to-day practice for veterinary technicians. For example, you may be asked to give a patient 100 mg of an antibiotic that has a concentration of 50 mg per liter. You'll also be asked to make up solutions. For example, you may need to make a 250 mg per milliliter solution from 5,000 mg of the medication and an unknown quantity of water -- as a veterinary technician, you'll need to figure out the unknown portion of the equation.
Blood transfusions can save an animal's life only if a veterinary technician can correctly calculate how much blood to administer. Blood transfusions are calculated by figuring out how much blood you need to administer to raise an animal's packed cell volume from a certain percentage to another. For example, an animal may have a packed cell volume of 10 percent and you will have to calculate how much blood is necessary to raise it to 25 percent.
A veterinary technician must double-check a veterinarian's order before preparing and administering a drug. A decimal point in the wrong place can mean life or death for an animal. To figure out if a prescription is correct or not, the veterinary technician must be familiar with a variety of basic math concepts, including percentages, decimals, percent solutions, weights and volumes.
Stephanie Ellen teaches mathematics and statistics at the university and college level. She coauthored a statistics textbook published by Houghton-Mifflin. She has been writing professionally since 2008. Ellen holds a Bachelor of Science in health science from State University New York, a master's degree in math education from Jacksonville University and a Master of Arts in creative writing from National University.