A Day in the Life of a Veterinary Assistant

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Hi there! My name is Claire (and that's my trusty mare, Maddie) and I've been the veterinary assistant at Irongate Equine Clinic for the last six months. In my months on the job, I’ve learned a lot about the profession and even more about myself. Here’s a peek at a day in my shoes!

Early morning

Every day I wake up to my four-legged, furry alarm clock licking my face at 6 a.m., regardless of when my alarm is set. Based on when and where I’m supposed to meet the doctor I’m paired with for the day, I may lay in bed wishing I was still asleep until 7:30 a.m., or I may jump out of bed straight away. But first, coffee. After coffee and breakfast, I run out the door and make my way to the car. Approximately 8 times out of 10, I end up running back inside for my belt or water bottle wishing I hadn’t laid in bed for that extra 5 minutes.

On the road

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Every morning, I drive to meet the veterinarian at a convenient location. That may be in Sauk City, Cottage Grove, or Oregon, or just at the office. I generally use this time to organize my thoughts for the day. I may ponder cases we saw the day before, or anticipate what the doctor may need for the first couple of calls so that I can be on top of things as soon as we pull in the driveway. Once we meet up, on the way to the first call of the day, we catch up and prepare for the day. We may recap the previous day if we weren't together, chat about any ongoing cases that are particularly interesting, discuss drinking more coffee, talk about our upcoming appointments and formulate a plan for the day.

On the farm

In order to make things go as smoothly and efficiently as possible, I hop out of the truck already knowing what equipment we’ll need for that particular call. However, as horse people know, horses have a talent for throwing a wrench in our expectations. It’s not uncommon for me to go back to the truck for more supplies or a completely different set of equipment based on the veterinarian's preliminary findings. I’m also there to keep things tidy, handle horses when needed, and keep track of billing information. These calls can range from a brief health checkup to a lameness exam to oral exams and floating for an entire barn. Every call, every barn, every owner, and every horse is unique - that’s what makes this job so interesting!

Between calls

Remember that plan the doctor and I made on our way to the first call of the day? This is often where that gets flushed down the drain. Schedule changes are inevitable, so we have to be good at going with the flow. Our time in the truck is often spent re-formulating a plan while I simultaneously bill our previous calls and keep an eye out for any to-do’s sent from the office.

The end of the day

On most days, I finish by dragging dirt and horse hair into the nice clean office on my way to process lab samples, return equipment, and grab materials to restock the truck. After getting in touch with the veterinarian I’ll be with the following day, I head home and either go ride my own horses, take my dog for a walk, or curl up on the couch. The number of floats I assist with in a day strongly affects the likelihood of the latter. Each day is filled with its own ups and downs, but no matter what I’m thrilled to be helping people help horses every day.

I feel incredibly lucky to be part of such a supportive, hard working team at Irongate Equine, helping dedicated owners and their horses. This has been an incredible learning opportunity for me as I head to University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine this Fall.