A veterinary nurse takes on a wide range of jobs from receptionist, cleaner, carer, surgical nurse and anaesthetist, and even emotional supporter, it is a tiring job but is very rewarding. Here is just a brief idea of what we do in a days’ work, written by Naomi Bosveld, Senior Surgical Nurse RVN.
At the start of the day there are many things that need to be done, first all patients in hospital are review by the veterinarian with the vet nurses and plans are adjusted according to how the patient has been doing overnight. The patients’ weight, TPR (temperature, pulse, respiratory rate), water and food intake, urination and defecation are recorded, this is done 2-3 or more times a day depending on how critical the patients are. They are constantly checked on to make sure they are comfortable and clean during the day.
The nurses will then prepare for the surgeries for the day this could be from simple sterilisations and dentals, to more advanced surgeries such as orthopaedic or ophthalmic surgeries. The areas are prepped with surgical kits, instruments, drapes, endotracheal tubes, intravenous catheters and the list goes on.
After the hospital patients are settled the scheduled surgery patients are brought in by the owners and the nurses admit the patients. Going through consent forms with the owners and making sure they are aware of the procedure being performed on their pet that day and the risks involved. After the patients have been admitted the nurses will place an intravenous catheter and take bloods for any blood tests that need to be run before surgery as requested by the veterinarian. They are then connected to fluid therapy to hydrate them before their surgery that day, if required.
After the surgery patients are settled in, the day consults will start coming in the nurses will assist the veterinarian in the consult helping restrain patients and help with preparing medications if any for the patients to go home with. The nurses may also be required to educate owners on such things as sterilisation, weight loss plans, dental scaling and parasite control. The nurses will need to discharge the consults patients, explain take home medications and collect payments.
Before surgeries begin the patients may require a pre-medication this is to help with pain management, this injection is given by the nurses under veterinary supervision. When the patient is ready for surgery, an induction agent is given and the patient will go to sleep, an endotracheal tube will be placed and connected to the anaesthetic machine. The nurse will monitor the patients respiratory rate, heart rate, temperature and blood pressure. This is to make sure the patient is stable under the anaesthetic and any adjustments that need to be made can be made quickly keeping the patient safe. The nurses will clip and surgically prep the patient, then the nurse will help the vet gown up. The nurses will help open the instrument packs for the vets aseptically and provide anything the vet needs during the operation. After the surgery has been completed it is the nurses job to monitor the patient upon recovery to make sure there are no complications and they wake up comfortably with minimal pain.
The nurses will then clean up the surgery theatre and the instruments that had been used for the surgery. The instruments are washed, dried wrapped and autoclaved to be sterile for the surgeries the following day.
After the patient has been monitored for a few hours to make sure everything is ok they are ready to be sent home to their families. When the clients come in the veterinary nurse will explain what home care needs to be provided, and what medications need to be given and when.
During the day, the veterinary nurses will also be running blood/urine/faecal tests for consults, taking x-rays of patients, assisting with any walk-in emergencies such as heat stroke, hit by car, seizures, poisoning etc. Also assisting with euthanasia which is a very tough thing to do emotionally being with the family as they say their last goodbye to their fur baby.
Some days can be really tough, you could be covered in dog or cat urine/poop, bitten or scratched by scared patients, having no chance to go to the toilet or have your lunch break, having to assist with that emergency caesarean or GDV that just rushed in as you were about to walkout to attend your own birthday dinner. But seeing the faces of the happy families with their pets and caring for the patients and seeing them recover it is all worth the hardship. I wouldn’t change my job for the world, and most nurses will say the exact same thing!