A Day In The Life Of... A Senior Imaging Nurse

Here at HSR we provide advanced diagnostic imaging that not only helps us identify the cause of your pet’s problem, but may also reduce the need for more invasive diagnostic procedures. Our senior imaging nurse Hayley is there to make sure the day’s imaging cases are run smoothly and efficiently.

A vet nurse job with a difference

At the start of each shift all nurses have a quick rounds with the co-ordinating nurses to see the plan for the day. It is at this point that I will discuss with them the cases which may require further imaging and an order is determined dependent on how critical each case may be. Once a plan has been made I will transfer the order onto the whiteboard located in the imaging control room. We also have a similar board for all x-ray studies to ensure the days run as smoothly as possible.

Between myself and the other trained imaging nurses, we ensure the machines are ready for use and that the daily quality assurance checks have been performed. Performing these tests is vital to allow us to get the best images possible and to keep the machines in full working order.

Preparing for the patients

All patients undergoing any imaging modality must have the following paperwork completed prior to induction:

  • Consent forms signed by the owner.
  • If undergoing an MRI, a safety checklist must be completed by the owner to ensure the patient is able to be placed into the machine
  • An imaging request form completed by the clinician – this allows the nurses to obtain the images that are required efficiently.
  • An anaesthesia plan worked out by one of our Anaesthesia team. This will highlight which drugs are required and can be prepared accordingly.

All imaging patients are induced within the prep area where we will have a bay prepared ahead of time. This will include all anaesthesia drugs and equipment for the patient and the monitoring equipment. In addition to this we require all patients to have intravenous access obtained via a cannula. If they are being moved into MRI a special non-ferrous (a metal that does not have magnetic properties) table is used to prevent us having to carry patients which is safer for them and also for the team!
The anaesthesia induction area must also be prepared ahead of time with the following equipment to ensure the induction of anaesthesia is smooth and efficient.

  • Breathing system set up for the size of patient – this must be checked prior to use to ensure there are no leaks within the system
  • Anaesthetic tray – we use trays to allow us to easily move all the items we need for the patient wherever we have to go. This will include all medication
  • Monitoring equipment is set up and functioning correctly (e.g. ECG, capnograph, pulse oximeter etc.). If we are moving into MRI we have an MRI compatible monitor, this allows us to have as much information regarding the patients’ anaesthesia whilst they are in the machine

Before the patient is induced it is important to check the room is set up with the relevant positioning aids. Once this has all been checked we are able to check with the anaesthesia team regarding times for pre-medication and induction.

Assisting with anaesthesia and imaging

Wherever possible I will assist with the anaesthetic induction of each patient, and ensure they are stable before moving them into the relevant imaging suite. With the help from the anaesthesia nurse I will position the patient into the scanner. Once both myself and the anaesthesia nurse are happy that the patient is not only positioned well but is also stable and has all relevant monitoring equipment on them, I will start the imaging study. Throughout this process I will keep the clinician updated with the images and they will direct me if they have any further sequences they wish for me to complete.
Often after imaging, particularly MRI, surgery (or further diagnostic testing, e.g. bloods or CSF) may be indicated and in these cases we will move the patients back to prep where we can start to prepare the animal to go straight into theatre. Either myself or the anaesthesia nurse will discuss with the co-ordinating nurse as to the patients’ requirements and a theatre will be set up by one of our nurse auxiliary team.

Although this particular patients journey is continuing (the same anaesthesia nurse will stay with the patient throughout to ensure case continuity) once it is in theatre I will return to imaging and scan other patients throughout the day; whether that be more MRIs, CTs or x-ray studies (for example pre and post-op radiographs).
At the end of the day all imaging machines have to be correctly shut down and the suites must be cleaned and restocked for the following day. Before going home, I will send any images away for further reporting if requested by the clinician and ensure the imaging studies have been transferred to the patient files so they can be easily accessed.

Training as an imaging vet nurse

I graduated from Harper Adams University with a BSc Honours Degree in Veterinary Nursing and subsequently worked in general practice for 4 years before joining Hamilton Specialist Referrals. I have always had an interest in diagnostic imaging but was only able to fully pursue this since working in a referral setting. I have done a lot of training on the job and have completed extra CPD (Continuing Professional Development) and short courses since taking on the role as Senior Imaging Nurse. In the future I am hopeful to be able to complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Imaging so that I can increase my knowledge and enjoyment within this area of my work.

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