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A Technician’s Night in the Veterinary ER

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

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Illness, death, aggressive patients, bodily excrements, raw emotions ... My job is far from easy. Recovery, survival, adorable pets, slobbery kisses, happy reunions ... It is, however, easy to love.

I've been a veterinary technician in an emergency room for four years. At times it is emotionally draining; at other times it is incredibly rewarding. Working in an ER is challenging, exciting, and far from mundane. It is a job of the unknown. Working in an ER is not for those who like order and dislike surprises. It is not unusual to go from relaxed to full-speed in a heartbeat.

As a veterinary technician, I have a wide range of responsibilities. I place catheters, draw blood, run lab work, take x-rays, run and monitor anesthesia, provide nursing care, communicate with clients, triage incoming patients, provide body care, assist doctors with procedures, restrain animals, perform CPR, and perform other technical skills as needed.

A busy night in the ER goes something like this:

At 4:00 pm, I clock in and "round" with the other technicians and the veterinarians. This is when I learn the case histories on the patients in the hospitals. Every hospitalized patient has a care sheet with hourly treatments and points of interest to monitor. Every hour the technicians check on all the patients and perform any needed treatments. These hourly visits with the patients are crucial to appropriate nursing care.

The surgeon is wrapping up a surgery from the previous shift. It is an eight year old, 100 pound Labrador Retriever named Brutus who is having his spleen removed. He had a mass on his spleen, which is probably cancerous. Brutus will require frequent EKG and blood pressure monitoring throughout the night. He will be receiving a large volume of IV fluids, and the nursing care will extra challenging as we will need to maneuver him often to clean urinations. Brutus will spend the night in intensive care.

We also have a six year old Boxer named Charlie in the hospital who previously consumed rat poison and is now bleeding internally. Charlie is also in intensive care and will be receiving multiple blood transfusions.

Other patients include a cat named Spike who had a fracture repair, a Golden Retriever named Buddy who has had a couple seizures, a mixed breed dog named Lucy who has been vomiting and may have eaten a pair of underwear.

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