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Behind the scenes

With May being Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month, we thought you might like to find out a bit more about the role of our veterinary nurses in keeping your feline friend safe during surgical procedures. It’s worth noting that we always have a fully trained and qualified Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) monitoring pets in theatre, as not all practices do!

Before pets have a procedure, a nurse will check the patient’s heart and respiration rates, temperature, gum colour and various other parameters to record what’s normal so we can respond appropriately to any subsequent change mid or post-op. If requested, a nurse will also run blood tests to check kidney and liver function. It’s important these organs are healthy for the safety of the anaesthetic. Once a pet is ready for their procedure, working alongside the duty vet, the nurse will then administer a pre-med injection to make the pet sleepy and place an intravenous cannula in the pet’s foreleg ready for the vet to administer anaesthetic drugs and any other medication required. We keep the cannula in place in theatre in order to give intravenous fluids throughout the procedure and so that we have direct access to the patient’s vein and can administer medication quickly for a fast response in any case of any emergency.

After the vet induces anaesthesia, a breathing tube is placed into the trachea (wind pipe), either by the vet or a vet nurse under vet direction, and the patient is connected up to an anaesthetic machine. All anaesthetic equipment has been checked prior to surgery by the theatre RVN who is also responsible for setting up the anaesthetic circuit depending on the patient’s body weight and specific needs to ensure the process is tailored to the individual and is as safe as possible. 

During surgery, the in-theatre RVN has the essential role of monitoring the pet’s condition while the vet operates. This includes checking vital signs – pulse rate, breathing and temperature – as well as checking blood pressure, that oxygen and carbon dioxide levels are as they should be and that the pet is under the correct level of anaesthesia. At 387 Vets, we have a multi parameter monitor in theatre which nurses refer to constantly to check various readings as well as carrying out their own physical assessments. It’s really important that a fully trained RVN carries out this role. A patient’s condition isn’t static, and every patient is different, so having the training to know how to respond to any change is critical to operations running smoothly and paramount to a patient’s safety. Did you know that we use a Bair Hugger® (an inflatable warm air system) to help pets maintain body temperature in surgery? Because something as simple as temperature loss during an operation could lead to slower recovery and in more severe cases, medical complications and even hypothermia? And that we also give patients fluids during surgeries to help maintain blood pressure and support kidney function?

Once the vet has completed surgery, and anaesthesia has been withdrawn, the theatre RVN stays with the patient until they wake up, at which point the breathing tube is removed, and your pet can be transferred to the care of the theatre 2 nurse and kennels nurse for observation and recovery care.

We’re really proud of the brilliant care our Registered Veterinary Nurses provide to our theatre patients, and the vital role they play in keeping your pets safe.