We held a staff appreciation day recently. It was not a holiday and there were no Hallmark cards to celebrate the day.
As I (Perry Jameson) started thinking about it, though, I realized that it is one of the most important days that we should, and often don’t take the time, to recognize all of the technicians and receptionists with whom we work.
When I think back on my career, I know that I would never have gotten this far without all of the help along the way. I recall one of my first nights of being on call during my internship.
An internship is the year between graduation from veterinary school and going into a residency. It is probably the scariest time for both veterinarians and for the patients that we care for, as this is a time when we are finally allowed to see cases without direct supervision of another veterinarian.
One particular night, I was called in for a dog who was having trouble breathing. It was in the middle of the night and having been asleep only minutes prior, I was trying to get my contact lenses in my eyes so that I could see. The dog arrived at the hospital and was in obvious distress. Within seconds of walking through the door, he collapsed. As bad luck would have it, my left contact fell out at exactly the same moment. Having no time to find the contact, we picked the dog up and sprinted him to the ER.
I was in a full state of panic as I knew that the dog was going to die if I could not establish an airway to help him breathe, and I could barely see. Fortunately, Barb was there.
Barb was the kind technician who ran the ICU at night. She placed a hand on my shoulder and assured me that I could handle this. She then talked me through placing an IV catheter to give an anesthetic so that I could intubate the dog. She helped me do all of this with my one good eye and no depth perception.
She could easily have moved me aside and performed the procedures herself. That would have certainly been the easiest thing to do, but instead, she gave me a great gift. She taught me that I can control a seemingly uncontrollable and scary situation if I breathe and don’t panic. I will always be thankful for her calming demeanor.
On another occasion, I had just started my three-year residency and was eager to make a good impression and to have the staff like me.
A bulldog was presented to the ICU while I was standing there and he was in heart failure. He, too, was having trouble breathing and in distress from the trip to the hospital and his condition. I calmly instructed the staff to place an IV catheter and to then administer Lasix, a diuretic, intravenously.
While there is nothing wrong with this decision, the dog was in distress and in need of something more. I can still remember the words of David, the head technician of the ICU. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to give him Lasix intramuscularly and give him a second to calm down in oxygen before we stress him out further by placing the IV catheter?”
My first thought was “no,” but then I realized that he was right. I will always be grateful for David’s wisdom in knowing that sometimes we need to take a step back and assess the whole situation.
Those are just a few of the big moments that come to my mind, but as I think more and more about appreciating our staff, it is the hundred little things that they do every day to keep things running smoothly.
It is the endless piles of laundry that have to be washed and put away so that patients have clean, soft bedding for their stay. It is the lifting of 50-plus-pound dogs onto an ultrasound table multiple times a day. It is helping to manage my load more efficiently by gently directing me from one task to the next. It is holding a pet that we are euthanizing and shedding tears because the owners are unable to be there.
It is the extra mile that they go and the place in their hearts that they find for every patient that we see. For all of this (and more), I want to take a moment to thank my staff and the staff of every veterinary hospital for all that you do.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.