From the very first days of America, pets have been a vital part of our nation’s history and culture.
From working animals, such as guard dogs and horses to ornamental and exotic pets, many Americans see their beloved companion animals as just as much a part of the family as they are.
For this reason, veterinary assistants (VAs) have become a vital part of any full-spectrum veterinary care system. In Delaware, these individuals help veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and other licensed veterinary care workers provide quality care to pets, laboratory animals and farm animals.
What is a VA?
VAs are a non-licensed profession that works to assist licensed veterinary care workers. It is important to note that there are strict limitations on what services a VA can provide.
In most cases, VAs must work directly under the direction of a licensed veterinary care worker and cannot independently diagnose or treat an animal’s condition.
In most cases, VAs provide the following services to their employers:
- VAs feed and water animals according to the directions of the veterinarian. Animals with specific medical conditions or who are being prepared for surgery must have a specific diet in order to ensure that they remain healthy and for this reason, it is vital that the VA follow his or her supervisors instructions.
- VAs commonly exercise animals under their care. For some animals, this may involve specific plans of exercise, such as riding a horse, while other animals may simply be placed in safe enclosures where they can then move around on their own.
- VAs assist the veterinarian in restraining animals during examinations and other procedures. Many animals can be quite dangerous when frightened or angry and so being able to safely restrain them can be vital to ensure that they cannot harm others or themselves.
- VAs ensure that all veterinary equipment is properly cleaned and sterilized. This is a vital part of ensuring that there is no spread of contagious disease via improperly cleaned equipment.
- VAs are usually in charge of administering medication to the animals under the direction of the veterinarian.
- One of the most common duties for VAs is obtaining urine and blood samples for later testing by the veterinarian.
Finally, many VAs work in the front office, acting as receptionists for the veterinary practice’s clients.
Although not directly related to animal care, VAs working in the front office must be able to effectively interact with the public in addition to taking accurate records for later usage.
In some cases, these VAs may also work as supervisors for the rest of the clerical staff, although this depends on the size of the veterinary practice and the management’s policies.
Becoming a VA in Delaware
Although Delaware VAs do not require a license, an increasing number of veterinary practices prefer to hire individuals who have obtained some degree of formal education.
By doing so, they can immediately put their newly hired employee to work rather than being forced to train the employee themselves.
Those practices which provide on the job training generally prefer to hire individuals who are at least 18 years of age and who have graduated from high school or received an equivalent degree.[edu-search]vet_tech_school010101082737[/edu-search]
VA programs generally take anywhere from several months to a year for a full-time student to finish. These programs usually confer a certificate of completion when the student finishes his or her program.
A student attending a community college may receive an associate’s degree, but this program usually takes at least two years to finish due to the need to complete other courses.
Finally, most programs also offer part-time and distance learning options for those students who are unable to attend classes on a full-time schedule.
In general, the VA program will train the student in the practical and academic requirements to carry out a VA’s duties.
Some programs also allow the student to take part in internship programs, where he or she would work in a functioning veterinary practice in order to obtain practical work experience as a VA.
In some cases, a successful internship may result in the student being directly hired by the veterinary practice where he or she worked as an intern.
Pay and Benefits
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there were over 74,000 VAs working in America during 2012. By 2022, that number is projected to increase to at least 81,700, representing a substantial growth in this employment sector.
Other sources of job attrition, such as retirements, will ensure that there continue to be job openings for newly trained VAs in the future. In addition, the continued growth of the economy and increase in discretionary income may see a continued growth in the need for VAs in America’s veterinary care sector.
In addition, the BLS has estimated that the median wage for VAs is about $23,000, while the top 10 percent of VAs will earn over $35,000. This makes this a very competitive career when compared to other jobs with similar educational requirements. In addition, many employers offer VAs benefits such as paid vacation time and health insurance.
Becoming a VA can be an excellent choice for individuals who enjoy working with animals. In addition to being an excellent job choice in terms of salary and benefits, this field also offers the emotional satisfaction that comes from helping to care for America’s beloved companion animals.
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