Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
VT 202
Course Title:
Surgical Nursing and Laboratory Animal Procedures
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Covers the preparation and monitoring of surgical patients, surgical assisting and aseptic technique, pre-operative and post-operative patient care, surgical instrument identification and methods of instrument sterilization, and the veterinary technician's role in special surgical procedures. Includes laboratory animal diseases and procedures. Prerequisites: Admission to Veterinary Technology program.

Addendum to Course Description

This is the second of a sequence of three consecutive courses offered in the second year of the program curriculum.  The purpose of this sequence of courses is to provide students with the technical knowledge and skills to properly and safely anesthetize, monitor, recover, perform pre-operative, operative, and post-operative procedures, as well as other aspects of anesthesia and surgical/medical nursing.  In this second course of the sequence, students acquire €œhands-on€ experience in anesthesiology, surgical patient prep, surgical assistance, circulating nurse duties, and veterinary dentistry.  Clinical focus is on small animals and laboratory animal species.    

This is for second-year veterinary technology program students and is a graduation requirement for the Associates Degree in Applied Sciences in Veterinary Technology.  Credits in this course are not transferable to a four-year school towards a baccalaureate degree.  

The required textbook is Small Animal Surgical Nursing by Marianne Tear.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon successful completion of the course, the student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of routine surgical procedures and related equipment.
  • Understand and integrate all aspects of patient management for common surgical procedures in a variety of animal species.
  • Properly select, wrap and sterilize appropriate instruments and supplies and prepare and maintain the surgical environment to ensure maximum safety and benefit to the patient.
  • Use medical records and patient identification methods to assure that the intended patient and scheduled procedures are correct.
  • Obtain patient vital signs, note any specific physical abnormalities, ensure pre-surgical tests have been completed and report the patient assessment to the veterinarian.
  • Identify the appropriate area of hair to be removed and select appropriate methods to reduce microbial flora on the skin in the area of the surgical site to decrease the chance of surgical wound contamination.
  • Position veterinary patients appropriately to provide maximum convenience for the surgeon and maximum safety and benefit for the patient.
  • Understand and utilize appropriate aseptic techniques to assist operative personnel in order to provide maximum safety and benefit to the patient.
  • Understand and provide the appropriate instruments, supplies and environment to maintain asepsis during surgical procedures.
  • Consult with a veterinarian to help assure that anesthetic and post-operative pain management protocols are appropriate to provide maximum safety and benefit to the patient.
  • Understand and administer the appropriate methods of post-operative care to assure maximum safety and benefit to the patient.
  • Recognize a patient's dental health status and perform techniques, as prescribed by a veterinarian, appropriate to the species and its condition in order to promote and maintain dental health.

Course Activities and Design

This course is designed to be a lecture and laboratory course.  It is a four credit-hour course that meets for two-lecture hours per week and six laboratory hours per week.  All students will meet for one and one half-hours of lab to focus on the fundamental skills of surgical nursing.  In the other four and a half hours of lab, each student will rotate through the following duty assignments for one lab session each: anesthetist, circulating nurse, surgical assistant, and dental technician.  Therefor, each student will be in this part of the lab for a total of 4 weeks.  During the remaining six weeks, the students will be in a lecture and lab devoted to the study of laboratory animal diseases and procedures.  

Lecture topics will include fundamentals of aseptic technique, preparation of patient and personnel for surgery, surgical instruments, surgical materials, tissue handling techniques, CO2 laser surgery, cautery techniques, suction and lavage, fiber-optic equipment, special surgical procedures, and dentistry.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

  • Grading will be based upon student understanding of the course content as demonstrated by periodic examinations, homework assignments, quizzes, a comprehensive final exam, performance of laboratory tasks, and attendance. To be eligible for a passing grade, the student must have attended a minimum of 80 percent of each of the lecture and lab classes.
  • Graduate performance on the €œSurgical Assisting€ "and "Dentistry" sub-sections of the Veterinary Technicians National Examination
  • These outcomes will be routinely assessed and used to drive relevant changes in the curriculum.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

Content labeled with an asterisk indicates content required by our accreditor.  Content that is also italisized indicates tasks that the student must be able to perform since they are listed as €œessential tasks€ by the Accreditation Policies and Procedures of the American Veterinary Medical Association's Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities.



Develop knowledge of routine surgical procedures and related equipment, including surgeries in these categories:

  • ovariohysterectomy - dogs and cats*
  • cesarean section - all common species*
  • orthopedic procedures*
  • orchiectomy - all common species*
  • tail docking*
  • onychectomy - dogs and cats*
  • laparotomies - all common species*
  • dystocias in common species*
  • dehorning - cattle and goats*
  • prolapsed organs - common types, species, and incidence*


Develop a comprehensive knowledge of the veterinary technician's role in the pre-operative management of veterinary surgical patients.


Develop a comprehensive knowledge of the commonly used techniques for surgical instrument sterilization.


Develop comprehensive knowledge and skills in regards to aseptic technique, operating room protocol and the veterinary technician's role in surgical assisting.


Develop a comprehensive knowledge of the types of materials and suture needles and their uses in veterinary medicine.


Develop comprehensive knowledge in the principles concerning special operating room and surgical procedures, also, the various problems commonly encountered in the operating room.


Develop comprehensive knowledge of the proper methods of dental scaling and polishing, dental pathology, and dental diagnostics; recognition of the common dental diseases of companion animals and recommendations for dental prophylaxis and home-care.

  • Perform routine dental prophylaxis (manual and machine)*
  • Understand client education regarding home care*


Comprehension of the various restraint techniques, nursing procedures, disease processes, husbandry, and veterinary procedural techniques used in laboratory animal species, including the rat, mouse, rabbit, gerbil, hamster, guinea pig and zebra fish.


The student should demonstrate the ability to perform adequately the necessary tasks required of the veterinary technician.

  • Properly identify patients and surgical procedures*
  • Organize medical records/consent forms*
  • Review pre-operative evaluation*
  • Evaluate current patient status*
  • Organize and implement anesthesia*
  • Palpate the urinary bladder and express it if needed*
  • Prepare surgical site using appropriate aseptic techniques*
  • Position patient for common procedures*
  • Demonstrate proper operating room conduct and asepsis*
  • Assist with care of exposed tissues and organs*
  • Properly handle and pass instruments and supplies*
  • Operate and maintain suction and cautery machines*
  • Understand the principles of operation and maintenance of fiber optic equipment*
  • Record and maintain operative/surgical records*
  • Coordinate pain management with the anesthesia/surgical team*
  • Provide post-operative care:
    • pain management*
    • fluid therapy*
    • adequate nutrition*
    • wound management*
    • bandaging*
    • discharge instructions*
    • suture removal*
  • Prepare surgical instruments and supplies*
  • Prepare gowns, masks, gloves, and drapes*
  • Operate and maintain autoclaves*
  • Sterilize instruments and supplies using appropriate methods*
  • Perform pre-surgical set-up*
  • Identify and know proper use for instruments*
  • Identify common suture materials, types, and sizes*
  • Provide operating room sanitation and care*
  • Maintain proper operating room conduct and asepsis*
  • Perform post-surgical clean-up (e.g., equipment, instruments, room, proper disposal of hazardous medical waste)*
  • determine/maintain fluid infusion rate*
  • monitor patient hydration status*
  • develop familiarity with fluid delivery systems*

Students must have participated in surgeries in these categories:

  • ovariohysterectomy - dog*, cat*
  • orchiectomy - dog*, cat*