A Day in the Life of a Veterinary Assistant

Working with animals is every child’s dream. We grow up watching zookeepers, Veterinarians, and Veterinary Assistants on TV with such admiration and envy. Being in the Veterinary field is considered a dream career, but it is not all puppy kisses and playtime. It is a serious profession that comes with its own trials and tribulations but also an overwhelming feeling of fulfillment. It would be our pleasure to give you a glimpse of what an average day in the life of a veterinary assistant looks like and we welcome you to check out our Veterinary Assistant program at California Healing Arts College in Carson, California.
Most days start off early and are fast paced. If you are scheduled to work in the morning, then you are referred to as the “opener”. That means you are the first person there to turn on all the computers, diagnostic machines, x-ray machine and perform other miscellaneous opening procedures – essentially preparing the entire clinic for the busy day ahead. You are also administering morning medications, checking in on surgery arrivals, and most importantly, you are the first person there to check up on all the patients who were hospitalized overnight. Our patients are always the number one priority for any Veterinary Assistant. Many of them are sick or injured and need your careful attention and care. Being the opener also means that you typically arrive at the hospital before the veterinarians, meaning you must assess all the animals and be ready to brief the veterinarian/s on patients’ status when they arrive.
Assessments are also referred to as “rounds” which involve several things for our overnight patients. First, we check each patient’s vital signs and documents this in the examination chart, then we evaluate the patient’s environment. We must clean the cages and chart whether the animals have been eating, drinking, defecating and/or urinating. Once we have charted and cleaned, we must then take all the dogs on walks to get some exercise and to continue to further assess them. Afterwards, all animals are provided with clean blankets/towels, water, and food. Once all the animals are nice and comfortable, we administer all morning medications and document our actions as we complete them. By the time all the animals have been charted and tended to, our surgery arrivals begin to be dropped off by the clients.
Patient check-ins for surgery play an extremely crucial role to the entire surgery process. When the client arrives with their pet, they are checked in by receptionist and then placed in an exam room. We collect the patient’s chart and meet them in the exam room to collect the patient’s weight, temperature, and vital signs. We then go over certain risk of surgery with the client and then begin our pre-op questionnaire. This questionnaire includes questions like, when was the last time the patient has eaten anything? Has the patient been exhibiting any symptoms of illness? If so, please describe the symptoms. The client then fills out and signs all pre-operation paperwork and we assure the owner that their pet is in good hands and the patient is then taken to the back and set up in a comfy cage to await further examination by the Veterinarian prior to their surgical procedure.
Now that the check-in process is complete, it is now our responsibility to continue the rest of the pre-op procedures. This may or may not include pre-op blood work, chest radiographs, catheter placement, e-collar placement, and anesthetic drug calculation. Once any or all these procedures are performed, the veterinarian will then examine all findings and clear the patient for surgery prep. There is usually an allotted time designated for surgeries, which is normally the early afternoon. The patient will wait in his or her comfy cage until the veterinarian is ready to begin. When that time arrives, the Veterinary Assistant will help assist with induction, monitor the patient during surgery and recover the patient post-op, making sure all vitals are normal and the patient has awoken without any complications.
A veterinarian’s appointments for the day are always different. Appointments range from general examinations, administration of vaccines, or emergency medicine including limping, vomiting, coughing etc. The Veterinary Assistant has an especially important role to play before, during, and after these examinations. Once a client is checked in by the receptionist, it is the Veterinary Assistant’s job to do what we call “Room a Patient”, this is a process that involves greeting and welcoming the client and their pet, guiding them to one of the many examination rooms and assessing the pet’s overall temperament. We document any concerns regarding the patient’s behavior and afterwards weigh the patient and begin to collect vitals such as temperature, heart rate, etc. As we all know, animals can not communicate what is wrong or what hurts, like humans can so it is particularly important that we ask all the right questions and get an in-depth background of the patient’s history from the owner. We interview the owner with questions that are essential to the examination process that will help the veterinarian in their analysis of the animal’s condition. Some example questions would be “Is Sparky eating ok?” If the owner says no, we must dig further to collect more information by asking follow-up questions such as “How long has he not been eating?” “Any changes to his diet recently?” The answers to all these questions must be well documented and conveyed to the attending Veterinarian so he or she may be better prepared before the examination. Once the Veterinarian has been briefed, the Veterinary Assistant will then accompany the Veterinarian in the exam room for assistance. The Veterinary Assistant will help with restraining the animal or comforting the animal if he/she is nervous or scared, transcribing notes, and/or retrieving any items or tools the Veterinarian may require. Once the examination is complete the Veterinarian will write out a “Treatment Plan,” also known as an estimate of all recommendations the Veterinarian may have. It is the Veterinary Assistant’s responsibility to present this treatment plan to the owner. If any diagnostics, medications, vaccines, or any other miscellaneous services are required it would be the Veterinary Assistant’s job to carry those out. This cycle will repeat itself though out the day.
At the end of the day the Veterinary Assistant will begin closing procedures which are ultimately the same as the morning opening procedures; clean cages, medicate patients, comfort patients, check vital signs and walk the dogs for continuous assessment, etc.
This is just an example of a typical day. No two days in this field is ever the same as no two patients are ever the same. There will always be something new to encounter, whether it be a new surgical procedure, diagnostic procedure, or a rare disease that is diagnosed. You will encounter all kinds of domestic animals while working as a Veterinary Assistant and your help in the Veterinary Hospital is vital to the treatment and healing of these animals. This field always keeps you on your toes, which makes coming to work every day exciting and rewarding!
Please call us at (310) 826-7622 or visit us online at www.chac.edu for more information about our 9-month Veterinary Assistant Program at California Healing Arts College in Carson, CA. Our classes are online and hands-on in the lab. Our program also offers and externship component where you will have the opportunity to work in a real Veterinary Clinic or Hospital as part of your training. Many of our graduates impress their externship sites with their skills and professionalism are hired on after graduation. California Healing Arts College offers Student Services including Financial Aid assistance to those who qualify as well as job placement assistance for our graduates.

CHAC College is located conveniently off the 405 freeway and Avalon, across the street from the Carson Mall. Our Carson campus proudly serves the following communities:

Bell, Bell Gardens, Compton, Southgate, Los Angeles, Vernon, Maywood, Cudahy, Florence, South Central LA, Watts, Lynwood, City of Industry, Lawndale, Paramount, Inglewood, Commerce, Downey, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, Carson, Long Beach, Bellflower, Pico Rivera, Montebello, Whittier, Gardena, Hawthorne, El Monte, La Puente, Monterrey Park, Pasadena, Huntington Park, Torrance, West Covina, Cerritos, Commerce, Baldwin Park and Artesia.

California Healing Arts College
500 E. Carson Plaza Dr, Suite 103
Carson, CA 90746
(310) 826-7622