A Day in the Life of an Animal Care Assistant

Jessica Norris

From a young age, Jessica always knew she wanted to work within the animal care industry. Therefore, after school, she carried out a National Diploma in Animal Management, and from there, carried out a BSc Animal Behavioural Science and Welfare. During her degree studies, she performed work experience here, at Langford, in 2007. Jessica started working at Langford in March, 2013, and here is a taste of Jessica’s role with ‘a day in the life of an animal care assistant’.  

Having the privilege to work in a busy small animal hospital as an Animal Care Assistant means each day is different from the next! There are various sections within the hospital which each have their own set of responsibilities that the animal care assistants need to fulfil. I work within three of these areas:

  • Patient Prep
  • Theatre
  • Sterilising

Each of these areas has start of day, end of day, weekly and monthly checklists. These are to ensure that everything is getting done.

 

Patient Prep

This area is where animals come to be anaesthetised ready to go to imaging or surgery.

Each morning, I ensure that there is sufficient stock for the day. This includes bedding, bandage material, fluids and catheters, just to name a few. Animals come and go throughout the day in this area, each with their own specific needs. I assist the vet nurses and anaesthetists in handling and restraining the animals. Sometimes, if the animal is going for x-rays, CT scans or MRI scans, I assist by helping lift the animal or positioning them.

Quite often an animal will require surgery. Once the animal is anaesthetised, I clip the area which the surgery will be performed on. Once clipped, I gently hoover any loose fur. The skin is then cleaned thoroughly to remove any dirt and the animal is then moved through to theatre.

Once the animal has been moved through, all the equipment used is given a clean. This includes wires from monitors, the clippers (including the blades) and the table. This is to reduce the risk of contaminating the next patient.

Some non-surgical procedures also take place here (i.e dressing changes). I assist by opening kit for veterinarians, clipping and cleaning for epidurals/nerve blocks, and by providing equipment (i.e microscope slides, gloves, needles etc).

After all the patients have been cared for, I carry out tasks on the end of day checklists. We also have weekly and monthly checklists for this area which I carry out between patients.

 

Theatre

We have four theatres here at the hospital. Each morning, I start the day by checking what’s coming in and which theatres will be used. I then give the theatres a damp dust if needed and check that everything is set up ready.

When an animal has been prepped for surgery, I meet the anaesthetist and the animal with a trolley to transfer them to the theatre. When the patient has been positioned on the operating table, the surgical area is cleaned again with a sterile solution.

I then open any drapes/ kit for the surgeons. The kits are double bagged/wrapped, so that I can open the first layer without touching the second layer – therefore the surgeons can take them without breaking sterility.

Throughout surgery, I carry out tasks for the nurses/ surgeons such as obtaining more kit, opening suture material and checking that post-op x-rays have been booked – anything the surgeons need.

Once the surgery has finished, the wound is cleaned and a dressing is applied. I then assist with moving the animal out of theatre.

I take away the kits that have been used and count them back in to ensure they are all there, and discard of any sharps. Once this has been done, I return back to the theatre to help with cleaning.

At the end of the day, I assist with setting up kits for the next day. I also help clean areas and set up theatres.

 

Sterilising

Sterilising is where all the kits, scrubs and table covers come to get cleaned and re-packaged ready for the next surgery.

In the morning I put on washing and take clean scrubs to the changing rooms. I also clean the ET (endotracheal) tubes, which are used in anaesthesia, thoroughly.

Throughout the day, I collect kits that have been used from theatre. I give each instrument a thorough clean and sometimes assist with processing them - they first go through an ultrasonic machine, rinsed in water and then soaked in lubricant to keep them working properly and to prevent them from rust. While I dry the instruments, I check that they are in full working order (i.e. scissors are sharp etc). We have a checklist for each kit – by checking off each item we can be sure of exactly what is in each kit.

When the kits have been put together, I then wrap them. Some kits get double bagged, and some get double wrapped. I then put them through the autoclave – a machine which uses high pressures and temperatures to sterilise equipment. I then return the now sterile kits back to theatre ready for use.

 

Each of these areas has their own set of routines, but with each patient there are very different circumstances. The part I love most about working in these areas is that there is always something to learn, and everyone is always willing to help. Learning all the instruments and various surgical procedures has been challenging, but I mostly enjoy working in theatre as I find it extremely interesting to see how the problems are fixed and how the instruments are used.