Ever wonder what goes on in an exotic animal hospital? If you are lucky enough to have a generally healthy pet that needs to come in only once a year for a check-up, plus perhaps a grooming appointment or two in between, you probably haven’t had the occasion to see what goes on at the Veterinary Center when it gets really busy, especially with emergencies, which is actually more often than not. So whether you’re currently a client at the Center or are thinking about becoming one, we thought we’d share with you what we do all day, so that you get a sense of how all the staff at the Center must work together, as the saying goes, like a well-oiled machine, to have the hospital run smoothly. Here’s how it works:
8am: One veterinary technician plus our front office manager opens the Center for the day. Phone lines are switched over from the overnight emergency answering service back to the hospital. The hospital’s emails are checked to make sure no one has requested an appointment for that morning. All emergency calls handled by the vet over the phone the previous night are called back to schedule appointments, if needed. All boarding pets are cleaned and fed. “Call backs” – or follow-up calls to clients seen days before – are placed. The technicians get ready to start that day’s appointments. The front office manager multi-tasks, as she juggles the onslaught of calls on multiple phone lines. While some pets are being picked up from boarding, others are being dropped off for boarding, and the techs set the incoming boarders up in their “vacation cages” so that they can adjust.
9am: Drs. Hess and Ravich arrive. They do rounds – they examine any hospitalized patients and review lab work that has come in from the previous day. Hospitalized pets are fed and medicated per the vets’ instructions. The vets and techs discuss any ongoing cases from previous days and come up with a generalized plan for the appointments scheduled to come in that day. They write up records from emergency calls they may have taken the night before.
10am-1pm: The marathon of appointments begins. One after the next, the technicians and Drs. Hess and Ravich treat whatever bird, bunny, ferret, reptile, rodent, hedgehog, sugar glider or other exotic creature that walks in the door, plus any emergencies that pop up in between. Even though the schedule may be harried, the staff is careful to give their full attention to each pet as if it were the only one they were seeing that day. Each technician and doctor has her own pets and knows the importance of focusing on the pet at hand, as if it were their own. Pauline, the office manager, keeps the vets and techs in line and as on time as possible.
1pm-3pm: The staff shovels down a quick lunch and starts the day’s procedures – x-rays, ultrasound exams, surgeries – whatever is needed. One pet at a time, with complete focus on each individual pet, the techs and vets safely perform whatever procedure is necessary. Hospital discharge instructions are written for pets being released. The remaining hospitalized pets are checked and medicated again, if necessary. The slew of informational calls that have accumulated since the hospital opened that morning are returned. Inventory is counted so that prescriptions can be filled, and orders can be placed to restock food, medications, and supplies.
3pm-5:30pm: Appointments start again. A new set of emergencies pop up, as owners start coming home from work to find that their pets are ill. The phone rings off the hook. Hospitalized pets are now being picked up to go home. New boarding pets are being dropped off. Remaining boarders’ cages are cleaned, and they are fed again. Hospitalized pets are fed and may be medicated again, if necessary.
5:30-7pm: The vets check remaining hospitalized patients again and come up with treatment plans for the next day. The office staff confirms the next day’s appointments. The techs clean and mop the hospital from top to bottom. Any “call-backs” not accomplished earlier are completed. New call-backs for pets and clients seen that day are put into the computer. Any paper records are scanned into the computer, as the Center’s system is paperless. The vets write follow-up letters to any referring vets who have referred in cases, and they complete any records they were not able to write earlier. The phone lines are turned back over to the emergency answering service at 7pm. The hospital is technically closed.
7:30pm and on… The vets are on call all night long. That means anyone (client or not) who calls the hospital reaches the answering service and can page the vet on call for a nominal fee if he/she feels that he/she has a life-threatening emergency that must be dealt with immediately. Depending on which vet is on call, either Dr. Hess or Dr. Ravich calls the client back to discuss the situation and calls the local affiliated 24-hour hospital to instruct the vets there on the pet’s care if it must be seen immediately. Emergency calls come in all night long and are returned within minutes. Sometimes there is one, sometimes a dozen. Each is taken seriously. In between, the vets try to get some sleep, because tomorrow is another day.