What Does a Veterinary Assistant Do?

More recently I’ve been working as a TSA (Table Side Assistant as we call them here) – also known as a Veterinary Assistant.  And yet again I hear “Oh, you’re just an assistant.  You just play with puppies and kittens all day.”

When I’m in the TSA role, my job is to get clients and patients into the exam room, take a thorough history on the pet, and get the pet’s vital signs.  I have to be able to know what questions to ask to get the information my veterinarian will need. I have to know what a pet’s normal vital signs are because, at least once a day, I will be asked by one of our pet parents (or one of the kids).

I have to know how to tell if a pet is getting stressed or agitated with what I’m doing.  I have to be able to move very quickly in an emergency situation (or if a pet tries to bite or scratch).  I have to be able to know what is an emergency situation and what to do all the while remaining calm.

Working in the TSA role, I also assist our veterinary receptionists when things get crazy up there.  I have to be able to answer the phones when they are ringing off the hook.  I have to be able to admit & discharge patients, assist clients with food or medication questions and be able to complete the client’s transaction for their visit or purchase that day.

Often I’m called upon to help our technicians in the back of the clinic with anything from radiographs (“xrays”) to restraint for blood draws to running blood, urine & fecal samples.

I have to know which medication is which and be sure to fill the veterinarians prescriptions properly and completely.  I have to be able to read and decipher the veterinarians shorthand of things.  I have to know what my veterinarian will require to be able to do their physical examination properly & completely.  I have to be able to decipher records from other veterinary clinics and emergency clinics so our patients get exactly what they need that day.

I have to be able to explain to our pet parents what I’m doing, what my veterinarian is going to do and what the different options are that my veterinarian is recommending or has discussed.  I have to be able to answer any questions that our parents may have or be able to find out the answer for them quickly.  I have to be able to make and explain a treatment plan (“estimate”) to our pet parents.

As you can see, there is no “I’m just a…..” when you work in the veterinary field.  You can’t be “just a receptionist” or “just a kennel attendant” or “just an assistant” – you wouldn’t last very long.

Written by: Kathy Raepple