I often get questions about why I am not on-call after hours for emergency pet care. There are many reasons, but the most important and most poorly understood is the teamwork required to provide adequate medical care. This is especially true with a critically ill patient or patient truly needing emergency care.
Veterinary medicine is not a solo endeavor. You cannot put a veterinarian and patient in the same room and expect a miracle to happen. A veterinarian requires support staff to provide quality care for your pet. Support staff may include one or more of the following: veterinary technician, front desk staff, office manager or kennel personnel.
Let’s say, for example, your dog is running around outside at night and comes back with a laceration and requires sutures. Suturing, in many cases, requires general anesthesia. General anesthesia requires more than one person. Someone must administer the anesthesia and monitor the dog carefully while under anesthesia. It is very difficult to perform surgery, monitor a patient under anesthesia AND be safe about it. In this case, if you dog needs to stay overnight, monitoring throughout the recovery period is required.
At Vetcetera, I have a very small staff. Carol runs the front desk and is the office manager. She is responsible for client communication, the schedule, getting estimates and treatment plans signed, reviewing and discussing financial matters, ordering inventory, sending out reminders, answering the phone, etc. She is also cross-trained to help with radiographs, restraint, getting medications together and MUCH, much more.
I have one full-time and one part-time technician. They are responsible for animal restraint, drawing up vaccines and medications, dispensing medications, explaining medications, performing xrays, running blood, urine and stool samples in the lab, administering and monitoring anesthesia during surgical procedures and monitoring and administering medications to hospitalized patients.
The veterinarian’s roles are: examine, diagnose, prescribe, perform surgery. His or her job is to take the information from the history, physical exam findings, and lab work and put the pieces of the puzzle together to make a diagnosis or a rule-out list. From that, a plan is made for treatment or further diagnostics. Treatment may include medical therapy and/or surgery. In my case, because I am the business owner, I am also responsible for the accounting, marketing, and regulatory paperwork- most of which is done on weekends and before or after office hours.
All of us are responsible for client education.
Proper pet medical care requires the full team to get the job done appropriately and safely.
If your dog or cat experiences a crisis of some kind, e.g. hit by car, bloat, respiratory distress, heart failure, etc. only a team can care appropriately for that patient. The emergency veterinary hospitals are fully staffed and prepared to handle these types of emergencies. It is simply not possible for a solo practitioner to attempt treating a critical patient by himself or herself and stay up all night monitoring that patient and then work all day the next day as well. This is a lose-lose situation. The critical pet would get sub-par care due to the lack of a full medical team AND the patients the next day would be seen by an exhausted veterinarian.
I did on-call work for years at another practice. It always amazed me how much I was not able to get done because I did not have the team with me. Patient care suffered and I vowed not to do on-call again.
Because clients are not involved in or even see what goes on with treating their pets, I am not surprised by the lack of understanding of everything that goes into pet care. If you aren’t in the hospital watching anesthesia, surgery, hospitalized patient care, running the lab, you have no way of knowing what goes on.
Next time you are in, please thank the staff for their dedication and hard work. They do much more than you are aware of. They make my work possible and play a significant role in your pet’s care.
Finally, you can often (but not always) reach me on weekends via text (text the office number 570-345-3250) or by calling the after-hours number 570-871-0408. My response to these will vary based on other obligations. It is also important to remember that even if I do answer the call or respond right away that does NOT mean I will see your pet at Vetcetera. I may be able to see your pet, or I may refer you to an emergency practice for the reasons stated above. If I do refer you, or you do need to go to an emergency practice, I make every effort to keep updated on your pet’s condition. I do this by communicating either with the emergency practice, the owner or both. I like to be involved as much as I am able for continuity of care. I also like being there to reassure my clients, answer questions and help guide decision making.
I hope this helps you understand the teamwork required for quality veterinary care.