• Dr Nadine Hamilton

Spare a thought...

Reprinted with permission - name withheld at author's request

I’m a vet nurse and I want to share the story of how my day at work went today.

I got into work tired, because the last 3 days I had worked 10 hour shifts with hardly any break because we were so busy. I had another 10 hour shift ahead of me. I don’t sleep well at night because I lie awake worrying about patients and how they are doing overnight.

I had several surgeries to check in when I arrived, together with regular consults and an emergency as soon as we opened. One of the vets sought me out to assist with a euthanasia for an old, sick cat. The cat had to be sedated in order for us to be able to handle her. I held the little kitty while she slipped away and her owner sat next to me unable to hold her or touch her as she crossed the rainbow bridge. The owner was so so brave and even acknowledged how hard this must be for us (not a lot of people voice this to us so it is nice to hear). Her daughter wasn’t able to join her so the poor woman had to deal with this on her own. After kitty had crossed the rainbow bridge, I stood outside the consult room door trying to compose myself before going into reception and immediately having to deal with a rude impatient person who wanted to buy a worming tablet who made a comment along the lines of “its about time“ when I appeared.

Later on, I helped an elderly man to his car while carrying the coffin with his beloved dog inside. He had tears streaming down his face as we walked and tried to thank me but could barely talk for all the emotion he was feeling at seeing a coffin knowing the body of his beloved companion was inside. He was going home to an empty house, he had no one and no other animals back home to comfort him. I pride myself on being someone who handles their emotions well however his situation really upset me, I took one look into his sad eyes and tried to tell him how sorry I was, we just looked at each other with tears in our eyes before he finally nodded to me in acknowledgment and went home to bury his fur baby.

As well as all of this, there are people complaining about the costs, people being rude or impatient because they’re having to wait an extra 10 minutes to see the vet because an emergency walked in before them, and the people who blame us when we can’t find a solution to fix their animal. I work at a general small animal practice (not an emergency vet) and today we had around 5 emergencies alone. Snake bite, salt water toxicity and severe vomiting and diarrhoea, to name a few. All of these patients arrived within an hour of each other. Who is the most urgent? Who needs to see a vet first? What about the other 2 people who had been waiting while the last emergency was taken in? All of us had worked all week and all of us were looking forward to the long weekend ahead.

Right before close, a very upset woman called with her young puppy sounding very unwell. Myself and several other staff stayed behind to look after the sick pup so she could go home and be comfortable with her family for the weekend. We had all just come to what we thought was the end of a 10 hour shift.

I may be "just" a nurse, but we are people too and you have no idea who or what else the vet has had to see or look after that day before they see you. They get tired and a lot of the time they don’t eat or drink, putting their own health at risk in order to look after your sick fur babies. It’s because they care and they want to do what’s best for their patients.

I don’t think a lot of people realise this, but we all cry too when your beloved pet is put to sleep, we feel your pain as well, and behind closed doors we are crying with you. When your pet gets better, we celebrate and there are cries of joy and laughter when we know we have cured a patient.

It takes a very special person to be a vet, and I wish I was strong enough to do that however, I’m not, and I do absolutely love my job as a vet nurse. Every day I come home knowing that I have helped an animal in some way or another whether it was assisting to put an end to their suffering or assisting in the healing process.

Please be kind to your vets and nurses - although we may be smiling there is a good chance we are still hurting from the last person we saw ❤️