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Ah! It’s An Emergency!

November 29, 2013
by Heather, CVT
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My three years as a veterinary technician have taught me a lot thus far. I have worked in daytime general practice now for those three years, here at Brooklyn Park Pet Hospital for 1.5 of those years. Last year, I decided to accept a part-time/relief worker position at the Affiliated Emergency Veterinary Service in Golden Valley to earn extra income and in hopes of furthering my technical skill set.  Many people don’t realize how different an emergency animal hospital is from a general practice type hospital.

The number one phone call I take at the emergency hospital is regarding a current medical issue a pet is having and the owner wanting to know if this pet needs to be seen today or can wait another day (or two) to see their regular vet. They also ask me what over the counter medications they could give their pet or for an idea of what their ailment may be. What they often don’t realize is these are two questions I can’t legally answer over the phone because my office has never seen the pet and there is no doctor/patient relationship. In fact, I could be terminated from the hospital if I did give an answer.

As technicians we are trained, in any practice, to recognize certain symptomologies that could be life-threatening conditions, or easily could turn into a life threatening condition. If a condition is described on the phone and the recommendation is to have the pet seen, it really does need to be seen.

The next most common question is cost. Yes, the emergency hospital will cost more than a daytime hospital. Why? Because it’s an emergency hospital that is open nights, weekends and holidays. Similarly to a human emergency room, expenses are going to be higher. Are the costs astronomically higher? No, and the staff on hand will do their best to work within your budget.

The third most common question is regarding wait times. These can vary greatly from hour to hour depending on a multitude of things. The emergency hospital works the same as a human hospital, animals are seen on a first come, first serve basis with the most critical patients being seen/treated first. All animals are triaged when they come into the clinic and their charts are put into line. Animals who usually are seen first, ahead of the line, are usually animals in respiratory distress, cardiac distress or traumatic injury (example would be a dog who was hit by a car). Other considerations are our hospitalized cases in the treatment room. If we have a large volume of hospitalized patients, or critical patients, wait times are longer as our veterinarian is often needed for those cases in hospital. Because of these factors wait times could be 30 minutes to two hours just to see the veterinarian.

The final common question is the owner of the pet requesting to accompany them to our treatment room for treatment (x-rays, fluids, lab work etc). This is always a no, unless it’s to visit with a hospitalized patient briefly who can’t be moved to an exam room. The answer for this is simple, liability. There are often multiple pets in back receiving various treatments or being tested for various things. There also may be a critical patient receiving life-saving care and the staff needs room to work.

In closing, I know nobody wants to go to the emergency clinic, and being told to go can be scary and overwhelming to a person. Just like in people, no one plans for an emergency but it’s nice to know there are places available should the need arise.

Heather, CVT