Thursday, 4 October 2012

'Night Owls'

'Nights are a funny breed of shifts for a veterinary nurse. They entail numerous cups of tea and in my case the odd red bull to get you through it.'


Its a combination of juggling numerous inpatients, a vet tearing their hair out and filtering through telephone call upon telephone call.
Take my last night shift for instance it started at 19:15, I had several inpatients one lovely border collie who I had been nursing for the previous two nights. He was so sweet he had an oro-esophageal placed due to a stick injury (a common problem caused by dogs that like to chase sticks thrown by their owner. The not so pleasant bit is it involves them running open mouthed onto the stick.) This is the kind of inpatient you dream about, so obedient. At one point this night whilst chaos was going on around he followed me over to the phone continued to sit at my feet whilst I had the phone to my ear in one hand and was feeding him through his tube with the other!
My other inpatients consisted of a very noisy and slightly senile cocker spaniel who just whinged constantly and a bichon frise that had been sedated earlier in the day due to a grass seed in his paw.
The day nurse gave me a handover of all patients then buggered off home and the vet stayed on a bit busy with paperwork from the day. I decided to go and make my first cuppa of the night and then the phone rang.....! And so it starts.

'I have just witnessed a dog being hit by a car in front of me.'
Me - 'Are you near the dog? Can you tell me what he's doing?'
'Yes he's just twitching all over.'
Me - 'Can you get him to the practice......straight away?'
Thank the lord the day vet was still around to help. The dog comes rushing in with the aid of some passers by in their car. Poor thing, a small terrier type breed who had obviously suffered major head trauma. We proceeded to give him pain relief, set him up a drip and start to treat for shock. Wish I'd got that red bull down me about now, whilst most of you are thinking about sleep I am in full nurse mode running round like a headless chicken grabbing equipment requested by the vet. We manage to stabilise the dog enough for the owners to come in to see him as they have now arrived at the practice. A very upsetting thing for any owner to see. Whilst the vet is monitoring the dog I am in between phone calls from more owners of animals that have eaten either socks or chocolate attempting to set up the x-ray machine. We carry out numerous diagnostic tests of the dog which show nothing obvious so we are treating for major head trauma which involves keeping the blood pressure at acceptable levels. I manage to get a slight reprieve and go and make the both of us hot drinks to keep our tiring brains active. I also make some headway on clearing up the carnage both us and the dog have helped to create. At 2am I take over seizure watch on the dog.

Alas an hour later we have to make the call to euthanase the dog due to having a massive seizure followed by no clear signs of brain function. Poor little thing, the heartbreaking task of phoning the expectant owner only to be telling them bad news.
At this point the night certainly catches up with you, the adrenaline plummets and the frustrations from a horrible case shatters you.
I manage to catch up on missed meds (that you feel guilty for) on the other inpatients, take them all out to the toilet and then eventually give them some rest bite by turning off the lights. I take myself off upstairs with thoughts of potentially grabbing some shut eye (by some I mean an hour tops). However at the top of the stairs.....the phone begins its horrible ring once again and I am greeted by.....
A distraught owner of a Chihuahua who has been woken up by him 'choking'. I put my tiredness aside and begin the task of filtering through info.

'Oh my god help, my little Chihuahua is choking, I'm not even sure he's breathing.'
Me- 'Ok slow down, can you look your dogs gums for me and tell me what colour they are?'
'Yep they're pink.....oh wait he just licked his lips.'
Me-'Ok so he's still with us then, can you give me a few,age does he have any previous medical problems?'
'Oh wait my mums just come in with the other dogs, oh no he's starting again.....oh god he's dying.'
Me- 'Ok don't panic can you ask you mum to get the other dogs away from him, I think he could do without the added excitement right now, could you possibly put your mum on the phone.'
Owners Mum- 'Hello who am I speaking to?' - Oh just a random person who could be sleeping right now
Me- 'Your speaking to a vet nurse who your daughter called when she thought her dog was choking.'
Owners Mum- 'Oh hello, well he's not choking he's perfectly pink and breathing. I think she just panicked you know how Chihuahuas go and that noise they make.'
Me- 'Yes yes I do, ok then well it sounds like you know what to look for do call back if he goes downhill.'

So my heart rate goes from a racing to gradually reducing once again. I know people have to call when in distress but it's 3am if you have time to call your mum so that she races round and you can see your dog breathing perhaps give it some time or at the very least tell your mum who your talking to before you hand over the line so that we don't both feel like idiots working out who we're talking to.
And before you know it it's 6am again the phone starts ringing again and morning rounds begin. All whilst the birds are starting to sing and most of you are still dreaming on a Sunday morning.
It made me chuckle when the owners of the cocker came in the previous night and when about to leave turned to me and said I didn't even realise animals had night staff to look after them.....No I don't suppose a lot of people do. Well here I am, looking after your pets in the dark of night not taking myself off to bed and getting into my PJ's as she so politely said I could when she left. My answer I'm wearing my PJ's they're called scrubs and they're quite comfy during at 13 hr shft :)

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