8 Essential Skills Every Veterinary Nurse or Assistant Needs

Do you enjoy spending time around animals? Have you thought about working with animals for a living? The proper educational training can help you make your dream a reality, and with a diploma in pet care, you can become a veterinary nurse or assistant in less than a year. While having an affinity for animals is a key component of building a career around them, there are many other skills that a successful and productive veterinary assistant or nurse needs to do their job well.

What do veterinary nurses and assistants do?

Veterinary assistants and nurses juggle multiple responsibilities every day. From greeting worried pet parents to writing up medical reports for the head veterinarian, assistants have a wide range of duties to perform during their shifts. Here are some of the primary responsibilities of a veterinary nurse or assistant:

  • Monitoring and caring for animals post-surgery
  • Performing routine laboratory tests, such as x-rays and blood draws
  • Collecting blood, tissue, stool, and urine samples for further analysis
  • Cleaning and disinfecting examining and operating rooms, as well as kennels and cages
  • Conduct intake interviews with clients and their pets
  • Give and provide directions for medications and immunisations authorized by the veterinarian
  • Sterilize and maintain surgical equipment and instruments
  • Assist veterinarians in routine procedures that require anaesthesia, such as dental cleanings or desexing
  • Provide emergency assistance to injured or sick animals

8 essential skills every veterinary assistant needs

Veterinarian nurses are also required to learn about all kinds of animal care, including diets, parasites, medical conditions, and restraints, amongst other areas. However, there is much more to being a veterinarian assistant than just these responsibilities. Here are 8 critical skills veterinary nurses need to help the animals in their care.

1. You need to be calm under pressure

Veterinary assistants are often on hand for pet emergencies, thus staying calm under pressure is necessary for this job. Animals are adept at sensing people’s emotions, and if they sense that you are stressed out, that can cause them to panic.

Controlling your emotions will prevent an already stressful situation from getting worse, and may save you from suffering from bites or scratches. You need to remain rational, especially as many pet owners will be extremely emotional about their pets’ health.

2. You can handle squeamish situations

Monitoring and assessing animal health often involves interacting with aspects that make many people squeamish. Veterinary nurses frequently deal with stool samples, urine, blood, vomit, diarrhoea, and parasites. Sometimes, animals will come in with serious injuries, such as broken and protruding bones or popped out eyes, and you will need to set aside any reactions you may have to sights or unpleasant smells.

Your colleagues count on you assisting them in helping an animal in distress, so you need to power through any nausea or discomfort you may have for the sake of the animal.

3. You must have physical stamina

Veterinary assistants have active jobs; many of their daily responsibilities involve physical tasks. In handling sensitive medical equipment or a frightened dog or cat, a nurse needs both dexterity and a gentle touch. This job requires a person to be on her feet for long hours, and some physical strength is necessary to lift animals and move equipment.

4. You have emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, especially regarding self-awareness, relationship management, and social awareness, are important qualities a veterinary assistant needs to possess. Identifying and managing your emotions, as well as being more attuned to pet owners’ and colleagues’ feelings, can help you keep the focus on the situation and allow you to better analyze and respond to your immediate environment. Emotional intelligence is a vital skill to have, especially in emergencies when emotions are running high.

5. You have a passion for animals

Veterinary assistants have a deep love of animals and enjoy connecting with pets’ owners. Ultimately, successful nurses are those people who find a significant emotional reward in forging a bond with an animal and helping it to recover or stay healthy. A passion for animal welfare is an essential part of being a veterinary assistant.

6. You can adapt to different situations

Because of the varied encounters a veterinary assistant may have daily, an ability to adapt quickly to different conditions is a necessary skill for this position. Ambiguity and uncertainty are regular presences in a nurse’s job, which is why adaptability is needed to respond to changing circumstances and environments. Competing demands, sudden changes, and changing priorities are part of life in a veterinarian clinic, and an effective assistant is capable of going with the flow.

7. You think on your feet

The ability to think and act quickly is a valuable skill for veterinary nurses to have. Thinking on your feet with little to no notice, and making smart, reliable decisions at the same time is vital for both the animal’s health and your colleagues’ confidence and skill. Staying focused and flexible will make you a sought after veterinary assistant.

8. You are positive and enthusiastic

A veterinarian clinic is host to people and animals experiencing a wide range of emotions. Assistants and nurses need to display a positive, upbeat, professional demeanour in the face of whatever happens in the clinic each day. Showing your passion for animals lets owners know that you are dedicated to your job and care about their pets’ well-being.

Change pets and people’s lives for the better

If you love animals, consider a career as a veterinary assistant or nurse. Enrol in ICI AU’s Pet Care/Vet Assistant courses and earn your diploma in as little as 24 weeks. Start making a difference in the lives of pets and their people today with the International Career Institute.

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Gladys Mae


Gladys Mae serves as the General Manager and Head of Student Services at the International Career Institute. Gladys holds a degree in Mass Communication - Broadcast Media from the University of San Jose-Recoletos. She joined ICI in 2010 and has over the past 12 years been instrumental in providing leadership and guidance to staff and students alike. Prior to joining ICI Gladys led a multifaceted career with key roles in the banking and business process outsourcing industries.