Vets Now nurses share their tricks for making life easier on the front line

Working on the front line, our vet nurses regularly pick up pearls of wisdom which help them provide the highest standard of care in the most demanding of circumstances.

So, to mark Vet Nurse Awareness Month, we asked them to share their most tried and tested tips for helping their patients and making the lives of their colleagues easier.

1. Hairbands at the ready

I always have a spare hairband on me for keeping fluffy ears out of vomit. It makes the situation much cleaner and easier to handle — Misha Holmes, Worcester

2. Litter tray trick

Place a rubbish bag in a deep-filled litter tray. When dogs are sick aim them into the litter tray. Once finished you can tie up and discard. This saves chasing the sick across the floor as it smears — Kelly-Marie Barnard, Colchester

3. Keep it clean

If a dog has diarrhoea, bandage their tail to keep it clean — Louise Stott, Witham

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4. Leak-proofing

Place the urinary collection bag in a litter tray lined with an inco sheet, this way if the bag leaks and you need to measure the cat’s urine you can weigh the inco sheet and work it out that way. Also great as it keeps it all clean and tidy too — Carly Bennett, Bristol

5. Collection bag placement

We sit our collection bags in an autoclave pouch (the ones for sterilising instruments). It’s really handy for higher up kennels as you can hook the pouch onto the bottom of the door of the kennel below, reducing the risk of pulling on the catheter — Fiona Shuttleworth, Glasgow

6. Multipurpose probes

I find myself using rectal SpO2 probes as tran-oesophageal probes in cats and small dogs (obviously placed with care), as I find the springs in our finger forceps are too strong and just crush the tongue — Katie Smyth, Glasgow

7. Avoiding the chill

I usually place several incontinence sheets under abdominal surgery patients then if fluid leaks from the abdomen, I can slide the top sheet out carefully so the patient is not getting chilled, particularly if the vet flushes the abdomen and not all the fluid is suctioned out — Jayne Kirkham, Preston

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8. Tape tip

I tape IV stoppers to the patient’s fluid bag then when I take them out to the toilet I’m not hunting for them — Jayne Kirkham, Preston

9. Cleaning nooks and crannies

If prepping a distal limb for surgery, place the clipped foot into a latex non-powdered glove containing 50% chlorhexidine solution (but not too full) as this cleans all of the difficult-to-reach areas that may be missed using swabs alone. Make sure the gloves are non-powdered otherwise the hibiscrub solution will mix with the powder creating a paste and can act as a potential foreign body — Rebecca Davies, Manchester

10. Tail trick

I’ve recently learned that for cats with indwelling urinary catheters and closed systems, you can cut the end off of a 3-5ml syringe tube and tape it to the cat’s tail then thread the line through the tube. This keeps it up and attached to the patient but allows the line to move a little and reduces painful pulling on the prepuce — Gisele Gomes Rodrigues, High Wycombe

11. Keeping things fresh

I place a stretched glove over open tins of food. It keeps them fresh and you can easily write the date on it — Anneliese Shaw, Eastbourne

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12. A handy alternative

Use a glove to separate drip lines from extension sets if it’s proving a bit stiff and you don’t have forceps to hand — Elaina Mirams, Macclesfield

13. Stop rabbits chewing

A tip for helping to stop rabbits chewing out their drip line. Tape the inner cardboard tube from a roll of vet wrap onto the middle of the roof of the kennel. Then pass the line through it before attaching it to the patient. It keeps the line off the floor and away from the rabbit’s face making it less likely to get chewed — Louise Crump, Nottingham

14. Cleaning dry blood

I’ve always found if there is any dry blood on a patient from where the IV has been vet wrap works a treat. Wiping the dry blood with the vet wrap removes it better than wet cotton wool that just spreads the blood — Lauren Mcleary, Stoke

15. Small animal heartbeats

On small animal GAs I love to place a Doppler over the heart to hear the heartbeat consistently. I always tend to be cautious of rabbit/guinea pig/degu anaesthetics and find when I need to assist the vet with opening packing etc. I’m reassured by consistently hearing the heart on the Doppler — Kelly-Marie Barnard, Colchester

16. Kennel liners/eco pads as litter trays

A tip I got from our host practice is to use kennel liners/eco pads as litter trays for recumbent cats or those with pelvic injuries, so they’re flat — Cathy Rose, Bournemouth

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17. Using surgifix to hold soffbann

I like to use surgifix to hold soffban in place on neck dressings for central lines and O Tubes, it keeps the soffban in place without any constriction around the neck — Sarah Hanvey, Manchester

18. T connector trick

A good tip I learnt was when taping a T connector. Place a thin strip of omnipore (sticky side up) under the bung and cross each side over the top and wrap around the limb. This helps to anchor the connector and helps prevent the patient from pulling it out — Grace Power, Staines

19. Using an insulin syringe to blood sample

One I picked up in day practice is to use an insulin syringe to blood sample hypoglycaemic patients. Using a very small needle and taking a jugular or cephalic sample seems to be a lot better tolerated than jabbing the ear or pad — Samantha Abbott, Warrington

20. DIY hay rack

I read a great tip for feeding hay to bunnies using basket muzzles stuffed with hay and tied to the kennel. Like a hay rack — Cathy Rose, Bournemouth

21. Labelling plugs

Our host practice has recently labelled the plugs on things like the clippers which I’ve found really helpful, especially when there are quite a few things in use — Samantha Abbott, Warrington

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22. Stress-free BP’s

When doing BPs on small dogs and cats I never clip them unless necessary as they get quite stressed. But my trick is to squirt spirit or wipe some on with cotton wool on the area then apply some lube gel and apply your Doppler. Works every time and the patient doesn’t get stressed at this — Michala Bake, Manchester

23. Handy muzzle holder

I can’t take credit for this idea as seen in a VN magazine, however, I thought it was a good one to share…hold an oxygen mask in place using a muzzle — Charlotte Lea-Atkin, District Manager

24. Feeding small furries

I picked up a fab little trick for syringe feeding small furries from my old exotics practice. Instead of using the big chunky recovery syringes, you can use nail clippers to take off the end of a 1ml syringe and use this to feed the small furry. It’s easier as it’s a much more controlled way of feeding them and I usually find there is less wastage. Also, it seems to be more tolerated — Alana Taylor, Lincoln

25. Microchip tip

Does anyone else get annoyed when calling microchip companies, only to be told the chip does not belong to them and that you need to call another company for the details?

At a recent congress I found out about this website:

Just punch in the chip number and it will give you the correct company number to call — Tanya Burrough, Reading

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26. Keeping puppies warm

I’ve found tumble drying the towels and bedding just before they are used helps keep puppies warm. We don’t have an incubator so I’ve put towels around the outside of a wire carrier and put the bair hugger hose over the top into it covered by more towels and a room thermometer to monitor the temperature — Robyn Deus, Gateshead

27. Using bibs to avoid spills

When I’m giving charcoal or other various syringe meals, I use a wipeable baby bib/newspaper/towel/inco pad around the neck of the patient to try to prevent it from going everywhere — Erika Boyall, Barton Le Clay

28. Socks for warmth

Our host practice has a large supply of various-sized knitted socks for patients during GA, so they wrap their feet in bubble wrap and put the socks on to keep them warm for surgery — Julie Collins, Eastbourne

29. Harness the power of the harness

If you are struggling to keep a buster collar on a difficult patient, (especially if you are using conforming bandage as the tie) and they are not wearing a standard collar, then tie the buster collar onto the harness and it becomes nigh impossible for the patient to attempt removal — Rebecca Davies, Manchester