Veterinary nurses work under the supervision of veterinarians in private practices, animal hospitals, animal shelters and at institutions where research on animals is conducted. They attend to animals, give them medicine according to prescription, assist with operations and take laboratory samples. Veterinary nurses must be able to identify, take care of and handle animals.
The veterinary nurse is usually required to combine general nursing duties with reception and basic administration work, which means making all the necessary enquiries regarding the animal’s illness and completing the required documentation. This will usually be done on a computer. This information enables veterinary surgeons to diagnose the problem and prescribe the right medicine for each animal.
Veterinary nurses may be asked, for example, to do blood transfusions or to put bandages on wounds, to administer mouth hygiene or physiotherapy. They must care for all animals, including newborn and old animals and must know which diet each animal needs.
They also nurse and treat animals with contagious diseases and need to take precautions to ensure that such diseases are not transmitted to other animals. They play an important role in the nursing of animal patients in intensive care units. They assist veterinary surgeons with a variety of gynaecological examinations and procedures, for example with artificial insemination and with gestation examinations. Radiography forms a large part of their activities. They take X-rays of injured or affected parts of animals.
Veterinary nurses prepare animal patients for anaesthetics, administer the necessary medication and monitor the patients while they are under anaesthetic. They assist veterinary surgeons when they operate. They prepare the instruments, the operation theatre and the animal patient. They hand instruments to the veterinary surgeon during the operation. After completion they see to it that the theatre is neat and the instruments are packed away, and that they are clean and sterile. They care for the patients until they come around after the anaesthetic.
Veterinary nurses accompany veterinary surgeons on ward rounds in the hospital, during which the progress of the patients is discussed. Veterinary nurses collect skin scrapings, dung samples, urine samples and blood smears for examination in the laboratory. They prepare samples and slides to examine.
At the request of a veterinary surgeon, they might give advice to clients on de-worming or inoculation procedures of animal patients, as well as after-care that the clients must administer at home.