My first rotation, small animal emergency, is undoubtedly one of the most challenging but it was one of the most unique rotations as well. We were scheduled to be on duty from 4:00 pm to 12:30 am, however, we did not leave earlier than 4:00 am most days. It was tough initially to get our brains functioning at night, but it was all worth it because there were things that can only be encountered in an ER setting.
The main responsibility of the emergency service is to triage patients and stabilize those most critical ones first. There was one time that we had three STAT patients arrive within one hour. We all teamed up on treating those unstable patients and eventually we had to tell a few clients that it would take longer before their pets could be seen and they may want to take their pets to their regular vets the next morning. When the clinician asked me to deliver the message, it was a big challenge, as I’ve never done this before. I was not afraid of being scolded, I just did not want to upset the clients due to inappropriate wording. Thankfully, I was given a brief and concise instruction on how to do it and it all went well.
We saw all kinds of cases in the ER. In addition to those cases that were not true emergencies, we also had non-microchipped, hit-by-car animals with multiple fractures for which euthanasia was the choice most of the time, unfortunately. We also had patients that had eaten half a bag of raisins but showed no sign of illness (delayed toxicosis can happen though). We never knew what the next case would be but always kept in mind that in the ER, as in life, we had to prioritize the most critical things and let go when we had no choice.