The team in a veterinary emergency are a blur of blue on a busy Sunday afternoon. Veterinarians are out of breath from juggling consults and performing CPR while the nursing team monitors hospital patients and prepares for surgery. We understand that no one comes to emergency for a good reason. It is a stressful time and often at an ungodly hour of the night, but you will always find us smiling because working in emergency medicine and critical care isn’t “just a job,” we couldn’t imagine a life without it.
We are a special breed of people; we are the strays of the veterinary world because we didn’t find our home in general practice. We run towards CPRs, traumatic car accident victims and unstable patients because we know that in those first minutes is where we can make the most significant impact on that pet and their family. In the treatment area of the hospital, you will find us listening to 90s hits, eating chocolate and laughing and amidst the madness that the ‘emergency gods’ may send us, we treat the tide of patients as a team.
Nurses and veterinarians alike embark on this carer path because we inherently love animals, which grew into a passion and love for helping families.To place it in context, the baseline nursing hourly rate is $19.49 and baseline veterinary hourly rate is $25.59. Vets are not entitled to weekend or night shift pay rates, add in $60, 000+ worth of study loans and the motivation of love for the role is paramount. If we were looking for a wealthy career, we probably didn’t make the right move. It is a harsh reality when we are faced with comments that ‘we are only in it for the money’. It cuts to our core and undermines our actions and ultimately drives us out of the industry. We are working when most others are asleep at home, we make a choice to spend each Christmas working rather than with our families – we choose to commit this time to save lives.
This is why we implore understanding of the number at the bottom of the bill.
It isn’t just a mere number – within it includes:
- The consult
- The service – eg. surgery
- The diagnostics – x-ray, ultrasound, blood work
- The equipment – bandages, tools, swabs, catheters, fluid bags, drip lines
- The medications – sedation, anesthetics, pain relief, oral formulas to go home on
Finally, the hours spent in the hospital – essentially – the veterinarians’ and nurses’ time. The time in which patients constant monitoring, care, feeding, bandage changes, walks, and cuddles.
To assess this deeper, an ultrasound examination involves one or two nurses to clip the patient in preparation and then to hold the patient for the procedure. Then the veterinarian will perform the ultrasound using a highly technical and expensive piece of medical equipment, that can take over 30 minutes to do. Then the veterinarian draws conclusions from the exam, which can be only done due to their years of costly study. $300.00 for an ultrasound is justified to cover the costs of what is involved, however, the general public rarely sees this cost in their own medical expenses. This is due to Medicare and government subsidies which exist to absorb these costs for human medical care only, often leaving owners feeling “bill shock” in regards to veterinary medical treatment.
It also needs to be considered within the context of the treatment – emergency centers will have a higher rate due to the staffing costs, specialist care and the equipment required in the hospital to cope with any emergency. Similar to seeing human specialists, keeping in mind that Medicare and government subsidies exist for human treatment only. Also deeply embedded in the number at the bottom of the page are the years of work, dedication, and study to reach the point of treating patients.
Behind closed doors, we steal cuddles and comfort patients as though they were our own. We cheer when a sick dog starts eating again. If they are anxious, we play music and have been known to make blanket forts for distressed patients or have them sit next to the vet’s chairs. If there is a challenging disease, a vet will not face it alone, instead, a team will surround patients determined to get them home.
The role of a veterinary staff is not an easy one – many of us will lose sleep over our patients or shed many tears when letting one go… but we wouldn’t change it for the world because we dedicate our lives to pets.
If you liked this article, read Brooke Schampers previous interview “The ramblings of an emergency intern – by Brooke Schampers” on our blog.