You never know what your shift will hold when you walk through the doors. No day is ever the same – sure the cases might be similar, such as the vomiting, which brings a comforting aspect to the role but each patient walks in with their own story. Within moments, a quiet shift can turn into carnage with three crash patients arriving – one needing CPR, the other with a haemoabdomen and the third, a dog attack wound. All the while, you have a client who’s been waiting 30 minutes because their dog has sore ears because we work on a triage basis.
I honestly love what I do, the adrenaline and the unknown bring a certain thrill to balance out the mundane end of shift paperwork. I am one month away from completing my internship with the Animal Emergency Service – ending in two exams to ensure I have the required level of knowledge. The internship began with shadowing senior vets – learning consulting styles, diagnostic and treatment protocols and key client communication skills. I then transitioned into a solo-consulting role with case responsibility and patient decision-making.
I am fortunate to be supported by senior clinicians every night and there is always someone on call to discuss cases or assist in surgery. This, I have learned, is one of the most valuable aspects in a first job, it takes the stress out of making decisions, not lying awake at night wondering if you made the right treatment choice, because another older and wiser veterinarian was there to guide you. So if I have one piece of advice for new graduates – it would be to find a job where you are supported every step of the way. No one tells you of the constant mental stress caused by the decision-making process, because in reality you don’t know everything and lying awake at night worrying about a case is torture.
A career in emergency medicine is an emotional rollercoaster – there are huge wins and big losses. We see the most critical animals in Australia and it is heartbreaking to lose patients but in turn, you also say goodbye to patients you have just met. This perhaps is a little cynical but it is often too soon to develop an emotional connection, which does make this side of the work easier.
The hours are long and the shifts are irregular but this works for me. Doing three-four shifts a week allows for an interesting work-life balance, it means the cafes are always quiet, the roads are free of traffic and there is time to enjoy the sunshine. Shift life definitely has its perks. Sleeping becomes an art form – carefully timing naps prior to long shifts, and then not sleeping too long into the day to avoid a poor sleep cycle. I am fortunate to be able to sleep whenever-where ever, but for those looking at a career in ER, it is important to consider if this balance is right for you.
I get that emergency “buzz” – the thrill when a GDV arrives or I diagnose a case of IMHA but nothing quite matches the feeling when a critically ill patient returns to their family. Follow my journey on Instagram: @doctor_brooke.