A Day in the Life of a Vet

Each day as a veterinarian at Wellpets is never the same. It is part of what makes the job so interesting - you never know what is going to happen. It is often joked that we spend our time petting puppies and kittens, and although we do our fair share of this, we also do a lot more each day.

We typically start our mornings admitting patients for day procedures. We make sure they have been fasted, go through the plan with their owners, and assure them that we will take good care of their beloved pet. Some days we will have all routine procedures - desexings, dentals, lump removals, or radiographs to check on lameness. Some days they are a little more complicated, such as an orthopaedic procedure or an eye removal.

Once all our patients are in for the day, we make sure they are ready for surgery. This often involves taking blood samples to ensure they are fit and healthy for an anaesthetic, placing intravenous catheters, and then premedicating them prior to their procedure. This is where our nurses are amazing and get this all underway while we start morning consultations.

We often have two blocks of consultations in a day; morning and afternoon, with surgery and procedures in between. Sometimes if we are lucky, we even get lunch! One of my favourite aspects of being a veterinarian is consulting - I love meeting new patients, or greeting repeat offenders. I enjoy talking to their owners and working out what is going on with their pet, and explaining how we can fix it. Consultations can range from vaccinations, to sore ears and legs, to itchy skin or just not feeling right. It is not uncommon for us to take one of our consultations to the prep room to take some bloods for analysis, or admit them for imaging or fluids if they are unwell. Sometimes we even just bring out a cute puppy or kitten to show the team!

In between all this, the phones are always ringing. It can be an owner calling to enquire about a patient in hospital, asking for repeat medications, or concerned their pet needs to be seen as soon as possible. If we don’t have space in our consultations to see them, we always offer to admit their sick pet so we can squeeze them in when we have a spare moment. These phone calls often generate communications for us, so if we have a quick second between consults or procedures, you will find us on the phone updating an owner regarding blood results, dispensing medications or emailing a specialist a referral for a complicated case.

The middle of the day is for surgery and procedures. Our wonderful nurses have everything ready for us, so we can often start immediately. We always begin with sterile procedures first, such as spays and castrations. We then move onto lump removals, followed by dentals. Dentals can be straight forward cleans, or the dental radiographs may reveal that one or two, or many, teeth need to be extracted. We also do radiographs and ultrasounds between these while we get the theatre ready for the next patient. These may reveal that another surgery needs to happen, from a young labrador that has eaten something they shouldn’t, to a worrying find on an ultrasound that we need to take biopsies on.

Some days are quieter than others, and we get all our consultations, procedures, communications, consult notes and drug reports completed before closing time. Other days, things don’t exactly go as planned. Emergencies always throw a spanner in the works, whether it is a poor patient that has been hit by a car that needs stabilisation, or a collapsed dog with a bleeding spleen that needs emergency surgery. When these happen, we drop everything to do what we can to save the patient. Often we are successful, but other times we are not.

The hardest part about being a veterinarian is giving owners bad news. This may be that we were unable to revive a patient, to a finding of cancer that we can’t treat. Sometimes it may be that an older patient has reached the stage where we can’t give them a good quality of life anymore, and we need to guide their owner to make a difficult decision. It is not uncommon for us to help a patient pass by performing a euthanasia, and then needing to move onto the next consult of a new puppy or kitten. It can be hard to do this, and often we need a moment or two to grieve before we can open that consulting room door.

At the end of the day, we finish off what we can. Our wonderful nurses have cleaned up the mess we made and have everything ready for the next day. If we have patients staying in hospital overnight, we make sure they are comfortable and their owners updated. We then turn off the lights and close the door. We head home to our families and home life, get some much needed sleep, and then wake up to do it all again the next day.

 A day in the life of a veterinarian is never the same. It is never boring, never easy. Being a veterinarian is definitely a calling, and I know I personally could not imagine being anything else.

Written by Dr Emily Nunn

Lead Vet, Wellpets Kallangur.