A Veterinary ER Shift: All the Animals Who Need UsFebruary 25, 2021
Are you ever curious what goes on behind closed doors at veterinary hospitals?
My name is Nan, and I’m here to share my day with you so you can get a peek behind the scenes! I am a Licensed Veterinary Technician & Veterinary Technician Specialist in Emergency & Critical Care. I am the primary technician for our Criticalist. Our service is the funnel through which all referral cases go to reach the correct specialty service within our hospital. So, as you can imagine, our days are pretty busy! Here’s how my day went on a random Tuesday in January.
The day started with table rounds, which is what we call staff meetings to discuss current patients in the hospital. This is where we talk about learning points, case details, diagnostic plans, financial concerns, nursing notes, and the clinical status on every patient.
On this particular day, we had 15 cases in the hospital already!
A Tough Start
The first case of the day was a sad one, but that’s the reality of working in an ER. We had to euthanize a cat who had unfortunately gotten into a Lily plant. Lily poisoning can be extremely dangerous if they are not treated within 12 hours of ingestion.
This was obviously not a positive start to the day, but it is something we deal with in the profession. We are equipped to share hard news with owners and be a comforting presence for our clients.
A Morning’s Work: Puppies Accidents, Feeding Tubes, & Diagnostic Imaging
With heavy hearts but a full schedule, we went on to bandage a fractured tail on a 12-week-old puppy who accidentally got his tail run over by a car. He was scheduled for tail amputation with the surgery service for the next day.
Next, it was time for feeding tube placements. I placed three nasal gastric feeding tubes (temporary feeding devices) before placing a long-term feeding device in a senior dog.
After that, it was time to position and process a CT scan (Computed Tomography) with and without IV contrast. Then I took the numerous images to the radiology service! After heading to radiology, we performed biopsies on wounds and a deep tissue culture for a bacterial growth that hadn’t healed despite being on antibiotics.
This was all before lunch! And lunchtime had come at last. Don’t worry; even though this seems like a lot, I do still have time to eat!
The Second Half of the Day: Foreign Bodies, Parasites, & Critical Cases
In the afternoon, we endoscopically removed a foreign object from a dog’s stomach, a common case in our ERs. The patient then needed a urinary catheter with a collection system to measure his intake and output. This patient had failed IV fluid support, and we were concerned about heart and renal failure. These are very difficult to manage when they are comorbidities because one treatment will damage the other organ and vice versa.
At the end of the evening, we started a patient on high-flow CPAP oxygen when her larynx stopped working after a surgical procedure that afternoon.
We then performed Chagas testing. Chagas is a rare disease caused by parasites that can be mild, causing swelling and fever, or can be long-lasting. Left untreated, it can cause congestive heart failure, which our 2-year-old patient was experiencing.
We then diagnosed and treated an actively bleeding gastric ulcer in a patient with severe liver disease and risk of catastrophic bleeding.
Throughout the day, in between all of the other anesthetic events and treatments I have mentioned, there was even more going on. We facilitated radiographs on multiple patients, an echocardiogram, two abdominal ultrasounds, and two exploratory surgeries. All while having multiple levels of communication within the hospital, with referring hospitals, and with clients. As you can tell, our days are extremely busy!
Wrapping Up a 12-Hour Shift
It ended up being a 13, almost 14-hour day. We did it as a team, side by side. It was long, exhausting, and draining, but at the end of the day, caring for patients and doing it as a team leaves you with an amazing feeling.
I love my job, team, and hospital, and though I was very excited to get home to my bed, I couldn’t wait for my next shift.
Written by Nan Painter, LVT, VTS ECC