5 Skills You Need to Succeed as a Veterinary Assistant

Veterinary assistants tend to be passionate about their jobs—and their patients. For many Americans, this work can be a rewarding lifelong endeavor. However, if you are considering a career as a veterinary assistant, it is important that you understand what the job entails and the skills you will need to succeed. 

Veterinary assistants are responsible for managing the daily tasks associated with running a veterinary clinic. This includes keeping the clinic clean and organized, feeding and caring for the patients, performing administrative tasks, and more. Veterinary assistants typically must have a high school diploma or equivalent, and some positions may require a specialized certificate or diploma program. 

However, this job often requires more than an official qualification. Due to the nature of veterinary work, assistants need to have soft skills that go beyond having a diploma. Here are five of the most important skills you should have if you want to succeed as a veterinary assistant.

1. Strong Communication Skills

The first skill that you should focus on developing before stepping into the healthcare field is the ability to communicate effectively with people from different backgrounds and with different communication styles. As a veterinary assistant, you will be constantly interacting with pet owners who are concerned for their pet’s well-being but do not necessarily have the medical knowledge to understand the details of what their pet might need when they are unwell. 

Pet care can require effort and attention from pet owners and it’s important that veterinary assistants are able to share this information in a clear and understandable manner. If an assistant fails to communicate the correct information to a pet owner in a way that they can understand and remember, it could lead to serious health issues for the pet in the future. 

2. The Ability to Empathize

Pets are an important part of many Americans’ lives. A recent study found that 85% of dog owners and 76% of cat owners consider their pets family. Veterinary professionals need to keep this in mind. Bringing a pet to the vet can be a routine activity—or it can be a very difficult day—depending on the reason the pet is there. Veterinary assistants need to be able to navigate the emotions a pet owner is going through while still communicating clearly with them. Empathy can go a long way in making that easier. 

Clear and concise communication from veterinary assistants can help to relieve tension and put pet owners in a much better mental space for speaking with the vet. They may also have questions or concerns that need to be addressed once the vet has moved on to another patient. Veterinary assistants should have the capacity to be patient if the pet owner asks numerous questions or requires more help than usual. 

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3. Effective Time Management Skills

A veterinary assistant has to wear many hats at work. You must ensure that the clinic and pet habitats are clean, communicate with patients, complete administrative tasks, and help with many other tasks that come up. This can be stressful without the right time management skills. Veterinary assistants who are unable to manage their time can find themselves overwhelmed and quickly lose interest in a job that was once their passion. 

In the United States, there is only one veterinarian for every 582 households with dogs and every 382 households with cats. This means that vets and veterinary assistants are busy and must budget their time so they can take care of every patient who walks through their doors. The demand for pet care is only expected to rise in the future and every veterinary professional needs to know how to manage that demand without putting themselves at risk of burnout. 

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4. Comprehensive Technical Knowledge

Like any other healthcare job, being a veterinary assistant requires a high level of comfort with a range of technical equipment and machinery. Once you’re familiar with the equipment a veterinary clinic uses, you can assist in a wide variety of procedures such as disinfection, sterilization, and bloodwork. 

In addition to highly specialized medical equipment, each veterinary clinic also often uses their own software to manage appointments, keep records, and store customer contact information. Using this software effectively can directly impact how effective and efficient an assistant is at completing their tasks and fulfilling their responsibilities. 

5. Undeniable Passion for the Job

Veterinary assistants often choose this line of work because it can help them channel their love and passion for helping animals into a fulfilling career. This passion is often what gives them the energy and motivation to deal with the stress of the high demand for veterinary services, the emotionally charged atmosphere, and the numerous roles they have to fulfill while they are at work. 

Enthusiasm for the job also primes veterinary assistants for greater progress in their career. Assistants who are clearly passionate about their work and are willing to put in the hard work necessary to grow in the industry are more likely to be recognized and mentored by their employers for further advancement. 

Starting a Career as a Veterinary Assistant

Becoming a successful veterinary assistant requires a combination of technical skills, interpersonal skills, and a genuine love for animals. It is important to have a strong foundation of knowledge in animal care and medical terminology, as well as the ability to communicate effectively with both animals and their owners. 

Additionally, a positive attitude, attention to detail, and willingness to learn and adapt to new situations are essential traits for success in this field. With dedication and hard work, anyone can develop the skills needed to excel as a veterinary assistant and make a positive impact on the lives of animals and their owners.

Explore the programs at HCI College for more information on courses you can take that will give you the most successful career in allied health care. 

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