Veterinary Assistant in a Research Facility
A Veterinary Assistant in a research facility works with animals involved in scientific research, such as laboratory animals or animals used in the development and testing of new medications, medical devices, or procedures. Their responsibilities may differ from those of veterinary assistants working in general practice, as they are focused on the care and maintenance of animals in a research setting. Here is an overview of the key aspects of the job,
Roles and Responsibilities
Animal care and husbandry
- Provide daily care for the animals, including feeding, watering, and monitoring their health and well-being.
- Clean and maintain animal housing areas, ensuring a safe and sanitary environment.
- Administer medications, treatments, or other therapies as directed by the veterinarian or veterinary technician.
Assisting with research procedures
- Help with animal restraint during exams, treatments, or research procedures.
- Assist with the collection of samples, such as blood, urine, or tissues, for laboratory analysis.
- Follow research protocols and maintain accurate records of research activities, including data collection and documentation.
Monitoring animal health and welfare
- Observe animals for any signs of illness, injury, or abnormal behavior, reporting concerns to the veterinarian or veterinary technician.
- Assist with routine health assessments, such as physical exams or health monitoring procedures.
- Ensure that animal welfare standards and guidelines are being followed, and report any concerns or issues to the appropriate personnel.
Compliance and regulatory tasks
- Adhere to institutional, local, state, and federal regulations and guidelines governing the use of animals in research, such as the Animal Welfare Act or the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.
- Assist with maintaining records, documentation, and reporting as required by regulatory agencies.
Cleaning and maintenance
- Clean and sanitize work areas, equipment, and animal enclosures, following proper infection control protocols.
- Dispose of waste materials properly, following safety guidelines and regulations.
- Assist with inventory management and ordering of supplies.
- Maintain animal records, documenting treatments, medications, or procedures performed.
- Veterinary Assistants in research facilities often work in controlled, laboratory-like settings, ensuring that animals are well cared for and that research protocols are followed.
- The job can be physically demanding, as you may need to stand for long periods, lift heavy objects or animals, and perform repetitive tasks.
- The work environment may require adherence to strict safety protocols, such as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and following specific procedures for handling biohazardous materials or chemicals.
- Veterinary assistants in research facilities may work regular business hours or may need to work irregular hours, including weekends or holidays, depending on the research project’s needs.
Skills and Qualities
- Compassion and empathy: A genuine concern for the well-being of animals, particularly those involved in research, is essential.
- Attention to detail: Precision and accuracy are important for tasks like administering medications, following research protocols, updating animal records, and maintaining a clean and organized work environment.
- Communication skills: Effective verbal and written communication skills are crucial for interacting with researchers, veterinarians, and other facility staff.
- Physical stamina: The ability to stand for extended periods, lift heavy objects, and handle large or unruly animals is necessary.
- Time management: Veterinary assistants must balance multiple tasks and prioritize their work efficiently.
- Teamwork: Being able to work well with others, including researchers, veterinarians, and other facility staff, is crucial for a successful work environment.
- Problem-solving: Veterinary assistants should be resourceful and adaptable, able to think critically and find solutions to challenges that arise during their work.
- Adherence to protocols and guidelines: The ability to follow strict research protocols, animal welfare guidelines, and regulatory requirements is essential in a research setting.
- Education: Although not mandatory, completing a veterinary assistant program or taking courses in animal care, biology, or a related field can help prepare you for the job. Some vocational schools, community colleges, and online programs offer veterinary assistant courses that focus on laboratory animal care and research.
- Certification: While not required, obtaining a certification like the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation offered by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) can demonstrate your commitment to the profession and improve your employability. Some programs may offer a laboratory animal care focus.
- Experience: Many veterinary assistants gain experience through internships, volunteer work at research facilities, or entry-level positions in veterinary practices, where they receive on-the-job training.