Staff and Client Education
The Veterinarian’s Role and Responsibilities
- A veterinarian should assess every patient regardless of appointment type (wellness, acute care or follow-up visit) for current vaccination status based on age and lifestyle. Informed by this assessment, an individualized patient vaccination plan should be developed or modified and then discussed and agreed upon in collaboration with the cat owner.
- In addition to overseeing the development of feline vaccination protocols, the veterinarian should provide staff education on the following:
- Zoonotic disease prevention.
- Separate administration sites for each vaccination (based on consistent vaccination site guidelines for that practice).
- Potential life-threatening adverse events (i.e., anaphylaxis) and minor adverse events (i.e., localized swelling) following vaccination.
- Vaccine reconstitution and handling (the AAFP recommends using vaccines within 30 minutes of reconstitution).53
- Standard sharps safety procedures to prevent accidental needle sticks.63
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) online training module, “You Call the Shots: Vaccine Storage and Handling,” is a useful resource for staff training on vaccination.64 The practice should designate a person to be the primary vaccine coordinator for the facility. This person will be responsible for ensuring all vaccines are stored and handled correctly. A second staff member to serve as an alternate in the absence of the primary coordinator should be appointed (this is particularly important in case of after-hours emergencies). Both coordinators should be fully trained in routine and emergency policies and procedures.65
The healthcare team, led by the veterinarian, should emphasize and educate clients that they are part of a team approach to vaccine management, requiring the entire staff ’s understanding of zoonotic disease, core and non-core vaccines determined by the pet’s lifestyle, hospital policy, state law, client compliance, and adverse vaccination events.
Credentialed Veterinary Technician or Veterinary Assistant Roles and Responsibilities
A veterinary technician or assistant often assumes the role of designated vaccine coordinator, assisting in vaccination storage and inventory management. AAHA guidelines on vaccine storage and handling, and the CDC Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit are useful resources for this purpose.64,65 The vaccine coordinator is often responsible for reconstitution of vaccines and administration of vaccinations as directed by the attending veterinarian in compliance with state law.66 This individual is also often given responsibility for implementing feline-friendly handling techniques in the hospital setting to minimize stress during examinations and vaccine administration67 and for maintaining effective client education and follow-up, including verbal and written instructions on potential adverse events after vaccine administration and disease prevention.
Roles and Responsibilities of Reception and Other Client-Service Personnel
The reception staff is typically charged with maintaining patient files with vaccination information, including date administered, along with the production lot serial number and expiration date of the vaccine. Reception personnel are also responsible for contacting clients and scheduling follow-up appointments for booster series and yearly vaccinations in advance as directed by the prescribing veterinarian. Non-clinical staff should understand the potential lifethreatening and minor adverse events that can occur following vaccination that require veterinary assistance.
Pet owner clients are an essential member of a cat’s healthcare team. Although clients can be instrumental in helping improve healthcare for their cats, the Task Force recommends that vaccination be performed by a veterinarian. Vaccination is a medical procedure. Vaccines are available through sources other than a veterinarian, but they may not protect a cat against disease unless properly stored, handled, and administered. The principles of feline vaccination outlined in the box below represent a basic client education overview for cat owners. To help educate clients about vaccine and general health issues, both AAHA and the AAFP have handouts available to members and non-members.