The American people have had a long history of working with animals. From the hunter’s loyal hounds to the farm animals that helped feed America, animals have been a fundamental part of the American people’s experience.
Today, many families demand the same level of care for their beloved companion animals that they would expect for themselves.
For that reason, there is a growing demand for skilled animal-care providers, ranging from large urban veterinary clinics to family owned rural veterinary practices.
Veterinary Assistants (VAs) provide a vital component of any high-quality veterinary care program and are thus an excellent employment opportunity for those who are interested in working with animals.
What is a Veterinary Assistant
A VA is a non-licensed assistant who provides a variety of services to assist veterinarians, veterinary technicians and other professionals in the field of veterinary care.
As non-licensed employees, a VA is limited in the services he or she can provide save when working under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinary care worker.
As an example, VAs are not allowed to provide the following services to others:
- Prescribe medication for an animal.
- Make a diagnosis of an animal’s health conditions or provide veterinary advice to the animal’s owners.
- Carry out surgical procedures.
In some cases, a state may have regulations that result in greater or lesser restrictions on the VA’s duties. For that reason, it is important that the VA ensure that he or she is fully aware of how the law relates to the permissible duties for employed VAs.
In general, VAs who are employed in Virginia provide the following services to their employer:
- VAs are usually in charge of feeding and watering those animals under the care of the veterinary practice. Because many animals require specific diets in order to best suit their species and current health needs, the VA must keep careful note of the animal’s eating habits and report any unusual changes in diet or condition to the veterinarian.
- A major part of any VA’s duties involves safely restraining animals during exams and other procedures. Many animals can become extremely resistant to these procedures, endangering themselves and the veterinary staff. For this reason, being able to immobilize the animal without harming it or hampering the veterinarian’s ability to conduct his or her examination or veterinary procedure is a vital part of a VA’s professional skills.
- Maintaining the veterinary practice’s medical equipment, enclosures and common areas in a sterile condition is vital the health of the animals receiving treatment. The spread of contagious diseases, especially to animals that are already ill or injured can often result in death. For this reason, the VA will be tasked with cleaning and sterilizing the tools, enclosures and other parts of the veterinary practice.
- Many VAs are tasked with exercising the animals currently receiving care at the practice. The type of exercise can vary depending on the animals specific type and health conditions. In some cases, such as when dealing with horses or other exotic pets, the VA may require extra training in this area.
- Finally, many VAs work as receptionists. They interact with the practice’s clients while also filling and retrieving reports for the veterinarian.
Becoming a VA In Virginia
Currently, although many veterinary practices still provide on the job training, formal training programs are becoming increasingly popular.
These programs not only allow the VA to demonstrate his or her skills before being hired, but also allow the employer to avoid the need to train their employee before he or she can start contributing to the practice.
In addition, by obtaining a formal education, the VA creates a record of his or her qualifications that can be extremely useful in obtaining a job, especially if previous employers are unavailable to provide letters of recommendation.
Most formal training programs are offered by community colleges or vocational training schools. In general, these programs can take up to a year to complete, depending on the student’s schedule and the nature of the program.
Many programs allow for online studies or distance learning which can allow students to complete their education without being forced to physically attend the campus.
Finally, graduates from approved programs can also seek to become an approved veterinary assistant (AVA), which is a certificate offered by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). This certificate allows qualified VAs to demonstrate that they have obtained a high degree of proficiency in their field. As such, it can drastically improve a VA’s employment prospects.
Job Opportunities for VAs
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has determined that there were over 74,600 VAs working in America in 2012.
Some of these VAs worked as laboratory caretakers, while carrying out the same role as most VAs did in veterinary practices.
More importantly, the BLS believes that there will be at least 81,700 VA jobs in America by 2022. Once job openings due to factors such as retirements are taken into account this indicates that the new VAs will excellent job prospects in America.
In Virginia alone, there are over 3,000 currently employed VAs and the state’s rate of job expansion is expected to keep pace with the national average.
Finally, Virginia VAs earn a median annual wage of over $26,000, which is competitive with other state wages, especially when the generally lower cost of living in Virginia is taken into account. For this reason, becoming a Virginia VA can be an excellent choice for anyone seeking a long-term and financially secure career and a step toward becoming a veterinary tech in Virginia.
Becoming a VA can be an excellent choice for those individuals who enjoy working with animals in a structured setting. When coupled with the growing demand for qualified VAs, this field is likely to offer excellent professional options for the foreseeable future.
Veterinary Assistant Schools In Virginia