As with every area of veterinary medicine recently, emergency medicine has seen an overwhelming increase in patients. I’m lucky enough to have worked in a busy, high-level medicine critical care center in a very populous city. At this clinic, we see intense, university-level cases including severe diabetic ketoacidosis, snake bites, trauma, and many more. I cannot remember the last time I went to work and there was less than a couple of hours wait. Luckily, the practice I work at has been slowly able to meet this demand with appropriate staffing; however, I know that is not the case nationwide.
Anyone who works in emergency medicine knows the rather smug inside joke about the patient with a satirical, life-threatening ear infection that always presents at peak busy time in an ER. Over my winter break, I had a similar not-so-emergent emergency case present to me.
A known sucker for geriatric creatures, my doctor asked if I would assist in seeing Mauve, a 12-year-old chubby, chocolate lab, presenting for a three week history of being sore. Of course, among colleagues, there was a joke made about how this didn’t seem quite like an emergency, but my sweet and cute patient was pretty irresistible. I did a proper physical exam, ruled out other differentials with radiographs, and wrote a script for an anti-inflammatory medication after ensuring that the docile, old lab could handle it with her current organ function.
I’m always curious to see the owner who arrives to the ER with a simple case. As I discussed the medication with Mauve’s sweet owner and shared my adoration for her pup, I noticed her getting emotional. “You probably think I’m nuts!” She then went on to share how she recently moved to the area and, after calling every vet within an hour radius, the soonest Mauve could be seen was weeks from now. It got to the point where she couldn’t watch her sweet girl be uncomfortable any longer; she had the day off and decided it was worth the wait.
I know veterinary medicine is BUSY these days. The perspective I’ve been thinking about, prior to Mauve, is how burnt out my colleagues are, but I never considered the perspective of the frustrated pet owner. This lesson in client motivations is one I’ll keep near and dear to me for the rest of my career.