Preventing Staff Injuries in the Veterinary Clinic

Barak Benaryeh, DVM, DABVP, Spicewood Springs Animal Hospital, Austin, Texas

ArticleLast Updated April 20242 min read
Print/View PDF
image source

In the Literature

Voss DS, Boyd MV, Evanson JF, Bender JB. An increase in animal-related occupational injuries at a veterinary medical center (2008-2022). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2023;262(3):376-382. doi:10.2460/javma.23.08.0477

The Research …

Veterinary staff members are at increased risk for animal-related injuries. Awareness of how and why bites occur can help with prevention.1

In this retrospective study, animal-related injuries between 2008 and 2022 at a university teaching hospital were reviewed due to concern for possible increase in frequency. Injuries were categorized as bites or strikes/injuries from a patient. Injuries unrelated to a patient (eg, needlesticks, falls not directly caused by a patient) were also reported starting in 2019.

Bite wounds accounted for most animal-related injuries. Results showed a correlation between less experienced staff and increased incidence of injury, increased injuries in summer months, and increased injuries between 2019 and 2022 compared with previous years.

The authors proposed the increase in injuries from 2019 to 2022 was related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, as pet owners were absent from examination rooms, and separation anxiety may have increased the likelihood of patient aggression.

… The Takeaways

Key pearls to put into practice:

  • Staff with limited experience are most at risk for animal-related injuries and can work to improve their patient-handling technique by being assigned patients that are easy to handle. Staff should be continually trained in patient handling and be aware of when to ask for help.

  • Injuries are more likely when the clinic is busy. Staff should be encouraged to slow down if the clinic becomes hectic. Injuries can compound the stress of a busy day and result in lost hours and lost income.

  • Prevention of animal-related injuries is key. Patients are more likely to bite when apart from their owners, possibly due to separation anxiety. Staff should be trained in minimal-restraint techniques and be aware of the increased likelihood of aggression when the owner is not present. Patient handling techniques should remain consistent, regardless of whether the owner is present.