A Who’s Who of Helpers at the Vet’s Office

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

It takes a lot people working behind the scenes to ensure that a patient’s visit to a veterinary clinic goes as smoothly and pleasantly as possible for both the cat and the owners. One of the key members of your cat’s healthcare team is your practice’s licensed veterinary technician.

Though the terms “licensed veterinary technician” and “veterinary assistant” are sometimes used interchangeably, there are definitive differences between the two positions.

For starters, though licensed vet techs sometimes do the jobs of veterinary assistants, the latter usually cannot do what the former does. No specific educational training or credentials are required for someone to become a veterinary assistant. Licensed veterinary technicians, on the other hand, must complete a two-year program at an American Veterinary Medical Association accredited college or technical school and hold a professional license that must be renewed annually. Licensed technicians are also required to complete a certain amount of continuing education as well.

So what is a veterinary assistant’s role in a clinic? Generally speaking, veterinary assistants tend to be the backbone of patient care in any veterinary practice. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Greet patients and taking patient history
  • Patient care in hospital, boarding, and by following up with owners regarding how a patient is doing at home post procedure
  •  Assisting the veterinarian or licensed vet tech by holding patients during examinations or the administration of oral or topical medications
  • Venipunctures
  • Taking blood pressures, temperatures, weights
  • Client education and information
  •  Providing limited postsurgical wound care, such as changing bandages or dressings
  •  Cleaning and sterilizing exam rooms, operating rooms, labs or other parts of the clinic after each patient.

The functions of a licensed veterinary technician at a clinic include the duties of veterinary assistants, plus:

  • Manage hospital flow and help train veterinary assistants
  • Work as a nurse under the direct supervision of a veterinarian
  •  Prepping patients for surgery by administering anesthesia
  • Monitoring the cat’s vitals during surgical procedures
  • Administering injections or giving oral/topical medications as directed by the veterinarian
  • Filling prescriptions and dispensing the associated medications
  • Performing cystocentesis – collection of sterile urine sample from the bladder
  • Taking blood samples, performing urinalysis and identifying parasitic infestations
  • Subgingival dental polishing and scaling under direction of veterinarian
  • Place IV catheters
  • Massage therapy and physical therapy for patients

Licensed technicians are a wealth of knowledge and a great asset to any healthcare team. At Just Cats Clinic, we are proud to have a full time licensed technician, and two students currently enrolled in a veterinary technician program!

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