Veterinary practices generally employ veterinarians along with various support staff such as vet assistants, animal attendants and administrative staff to manage reception and records.
Scope of Work
Veterinary practices may employ one or several veterinarians. Many also require other staff such as veterinary assistants, animal attendants, vet nurses, administration staff, and complementary practitioners. The practice may be little more than one or two rooms; or it could be a larger establishment that includes a hospital to accommodate animals for observation or ongoing care.
In a smaller establishment, a veterinarian, and perhaps one assistant may undertake all the work, but in larger establishments, staff may be engaged either full or part time to fulfill specific roles: e.g. animal attendants to handle animals, bathe, feed or exercise them, clean cages, etc. administrative staff to handle reception, manage payments, keep records.
What You Need to Learn
- Anatomy and physiology – knowledge of animal tissues, organs, cell biology, biochemistry
- Health terminology – diseases’ terminology, appropriate treatments
- Identifying injuries and other causes of ill health - recognising signs of ill health, behavioural changes, potential sources of infection and parasites
- Awareness of industry services – from animal supply to cremation services, grooming, sitting, and more
- Feed and nutrition – nutritional requirements for different animals, types of pet food and specialist pet foods
- Fundamentals of microbiology – probiotics, pre-biotics, pathogenic microbes including parasites
- Animal first aid practices – basic first aid care for different animals
- Animal ethics and legalities – current legal requirements for animal industry, animal rights and welfare
- Broad awareness of treatment options – both mainstream veterinary practice and other complementary treatments
- Administration - record keeping, reception skills
- Bookkeeping and finance - general financial work, managing books and/or petty cash
Starting a Career
There are many ways to begin a career working with vet practices. These all involved getting as much experience as you can – you may need to start out as a volunteer or intern. Pathways include:
- Sales in a pet shop. This will expose you to general animal care and a variety of breeds in common domestic animals.
- Admin work in an animal hospital. You'll be exposed to general animal care, but also be on the spot to hear about opportunities and network with staff.
- Working as a vet assistant. Here you can learn about signs of ill health, behavioural changes, and more.
- Helping rehabilitate injured wildlife through a rescue centre. Learn methods to aid recovery, how to liase with other care providers, and build support networks.
- Volunteering for a rescue centre or other wildlife organisation. This can include cleaning animal cages, feeding, monitoring their recovery after an invasive or non-invasive procedure or treatment, monitor their weight, and their basic health signs.
Don't be afraid to get out and network or drop resumes. Get to know animal carers in your local community, and build experience in your neighbourhood through dog walking, pet sitting, or even time down at the local animal park. Look for meetups and hobby groups -- and ask lots of questions.
Progressing a Career
In order to progress in your career, further qualifications and experience are fundamental. Additionally, networking is essential.
- Training as a vet nurse assistant
- Working as a holistic practitioner within a larger vet clinic
- Drug and technology rep, liaising with vet practices and drug and device companies
- Animal carer and consultant, specialty carer for exotic pets
Spend time increasing your knowledge and building your networks. Look for courses and seminars, and get comfortable using new methods and technology. If you're interested in a particular kind of animal care, ensure you gain experience with your target animal. Look for books, talk to pet owners, and join associations.