2 Important Soft Skills for Veterinary Assistants

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are skills that are needed in the veterinary industry that include more than just veterinary knowledge. Soft skills can be a combination of assets such as having people skills, communication skills, social skills, and emotional intelligence. Many people believe that to work in the Veterinary industry, a person only needs to work well with animals. This is simply not the case. Every animal that comes into a veterinary hospital has their human owner with them. Soft skills will not only help with taking care of our patients, but it will also help us when interacting with their owners.

Effective Communication

One very important soft skill that is needed for the veterinary industry is effective communication. Effective communication is the key to success at a veterinary practice for many reasons. Effective communication with clients can help ensure that their pets are getting the best care possible and that they understand instructions on how to do so. For example, a client comes in for the dog’s ear infection. The veterinarian prescribes oral antibiotics to treat the infection.

Without having clear communication, the owner did not know that this medication was to be given orally and was dispensing the medication into the dog’s ears. What seems like common sense to the veterinary staff may not be understood by clients who have not had to deal with certain illnesses before. The lack of communication has decreased the client/patient relationship and has caused more pain to the patient.

Effective communication is also important with veterinary staff. Discussions between staff members regarding what needs to be done or what has been done can help run a smooth operation and lessen the chance of mistakes. If staff members don’t communicate, patients could have their treatments missed, or their treatments are done too often. Communication that is done properly can lead to higher morale in the workplace.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence includes many soft skills such as self-awareness, social awareness, empathy, and relationship-building. In short, emotional intelligence is when a person has the ability to identify, assess and manage their own emotions as well as others. It is important to be aware of emotions that one may have as well as how emotions may impact other people. This is critical when having to deal with clients that have very sick or dying pets. This is a very difficult time for them, and putting yourself in their shoes as well as having empathy while communicating with them will make this difficult time slightly easier for them.

Being able to develop soft skills is just as important as having the needed veterinary skills for a position. If a person is great at drawing blood and placing IV catheters but cannot communicate with clients, they will not be an asset to the team. Luckily, certain soft skills can be learned with time. Communication can be improved by learning to communicate well and doing this often. One of the biggest problems with communication is the illusion that it has already taken place. Learning to be aware of emotions and how they may come across to others is another way to learn how to have emotional intelligence.

Encourage others to have a positive attitude by having a positive attitude yourself. This can be done by creating environments where positivity is cultivated intentionally. While hard skills or technical knowledge is a must when it comes to veterinary jobs, However, by being able to hone our soft skills, it will lead us to be able to increase our expertise as well as provide great patient care.


Laura Switkowski has been a Licensed Veterinary Technician for the past 13 years. She has worked in general practice, exotic medicine, ophthalmology specialty and teaches at multiple Veterinary Technician and Veterinary Assistant programs throughout the country. Her interest in the veterinary field includes ophthalmology, anesthesia, and pain management.