My experience as a volunteer at a spay and neuter clinic
Last year, I spent many Sunday afternoons volunteering in a spay and neuter clinic. I helped both the staff and the animals who had been brought in to be spayed or neutered or to receive vaccines, nail trims or pre-scheduled wellness appointments that happened once a week. High volume spay and neuter clinics perform spay and neuter surgeries on most to all of their operating days. Their goal is to reduce the number of intact animals (not neutered or spayed) in order to help decrease pet overpopulation.
My motivation for volunteering here was two-fold. First, I wanted to gain some exposure to the veterinary medicine field because I’m considering entering the field and applying to veterinary school. Second, I wanted to learn more about spay and neuter clinics as they are niche, specialty focuses on veterinary medicine and is a very important aspect of maintaining animal welfare standards within the U.S.
The benefits of volunteering
Volunteering is a great way to explore a potential new career field as I was doing with veterinary medicine, however, that’s not the only reason to volunteer. Some of the other benefits of volunteering include:
Volunteering enriches your life outside of work. It can give you a break from your day to day routine and provide a mental space for you to feel creative and inspired. I experienced this in the clinic, as my day job is more creative and computer-based, being in a clinic environment was an invigorating change of pace.
Better health can come from volunteering as you build social connections with people who share similar interests including animal, environmental or educational causes. More social connections can help combat depression, social isolation, and loneliness – all of which are major health concerns in today’s world. In fact, loneliness can increase the likelihood of mortality by 26% according to the Campaign to End Loneliness.
When you volunteer, you’re making an economic contribution to the world. According to the Independent Sector, one volunteer hour is worth $24.69.
You’re building a stronger community and expanding your own personal network when you volunteer. The people you meet also expand their network, leading to larger, more diverse communities. Meeting new friends is also always nice. 🙂
You can learn many useful skills from volunteering such as team building, interpersonal communication, problem-solving and teamwork in addition to more specific skills such as building spay-neuter packs, preparing medications and vaccines (in my case).
What I learned at the clinic
Volunteering at the clinic was an extremely valuable experience that I’ll always take with me. I was shown how to fold the instruments used during surgery into sterile surgical packs, clean the animal’s cages, do laundry (and lots of it!), restrain animals for procedures and more! Developing this base of skills took a little time but showed the vet technicians that they could trust me with more advanced skills.
Over time, they began showing me how to take temperatures and heart rates, trim nails and prepare injections. I was monitoring animals coming off of anesthesia following surgery by the time I was nearing the end of my time there. The progression from cleaning cages to monitoring animals was a very special experience.
I also learned about each person’s role within the clinic and how each person was necessary to help the clinic run efficiently. The veterinarians performed the surgeries and diagnosed sick animals who came in on wellness days. They also prescribed medications such as flea medicine which because we live in California happens quite regularly. Veterinary technicians performed many jobs including prepping animals for surgery, taking blood, urine and feces samples, giving injections, doing nail trims and communicating with the patient’s owners. Lastly, the office staff made sure everyone was on track with the patients and that all clients were kept in the loop about their animals. It takes a team to make sure the clients and patients are healthy and happy, which is everyone’s goal at the end of the day.
My recommendations to volunteers
If you’re considering volunteering, some recommendations I can share with you include:
Do some research on the type of facility you are interested in. Ask yourself if you can picture yourself learning and thriving there while contributing to their operation?
Consider what basic skills you can fall back on if it’s a new field you’re exploring. For instance, I had cleaning and laundry experience that I knew would be needed. If you don’t have any related experience, that’s ok too as many places are happy to train enthusiastic people who are willing to learn.
Be able to take direction from people of all levels and who have different teaching styles. Have patience as many people will be busy and doing other tasks while trying to teach you something.
Don’t look down on anyone job or type of task. You’ll quickly become indispensable when you can show how you’re willing to do what’s needed efficiently and effectively.
Start the process early by looking at websites or visiting places where you’re considering volunteering so that you can find a good fit. Many places have an application process and some offer ongoing orientations that you can sign up for. Also, check out Volunteer Match for opportunities in your area.
Volunteering is a great step you can take to not only enrich your own life but the lives of those involved in the organization you’ll be joining. Who knows, you may come away with more than you could ever expect. Good luck!