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Superheroes in scrubs

Lucy Richardson

As a veterinarian in Bermuda there is no escaping the need to be on call. ‘On call’ is the cover that vets provide for emergencies which may occur out of regular working hours. Animals care nothing for the regular working day and are liable to fall ill as and when the mood takes them.

That’s all very inconvenient for sure, but you have to love them. The ‘on call’ part of our work starts the minute after our working day finishes and the practice is closed and continues until it reopens.

I have always been an on-call vet throughout my working life and have valued the insights that this night-time work brings.

There is a definite superhero status when that real emergency comes rushing through the door, the dog just hit by a car, an animal having issues giving birth, etc.

In these cases, all of your training and experience comes into play, and you are really able to be there for this animal and their owner when they need you the most.

You can give them pain relief, stabilise their vital signs and work out what needs to be done next with an air of quiet composure amid the hysteria of the emergency.

You finish these cases with an immense sense of achievement and satisfaction that you were there to save the day, no matter how tired you are.

The superhero side of the on-call Rota can also turn into the Joker though as I have often experienced. A few nights back I was woken up in the very early hours of the morning by a client calling to cancel her dogs’ wellness checkup for the following day. I sleepily said I would sort that out in the morning for her then stared at the wall for two hours trying to fall back to sleep. This well-meaning client could shoot an e-mail to cancel her appointment instead of calling the emergency line.

I was called on Christmas day, just as we were sitting down to lunch, by a client who was in emergency need of flea control for her cat. I am sure the sweet kitty had fleas the day before too when the clinic was open. But then it occurred to me that maybe this owner was lonely on Christmas Day and needed someone to talk to.

I chatted for a while and wished her seasons greetings and she seemed happier afterwards. She waited until the clinic opened to get the flea control.

My kids always laugh that clients must know when we sit down to dinner and always call the emergency line right as I’m about to tuck in.

It happens without fail, but it is the nature of a vet to have to promptly respond to an emergency call no matter what we are doing. You can’t help but think ‘What if they need me?’ More often than not they don’t, but what if they do?

I did walk out of my two-year-old daughter’s birthday party to treat a cat bite abscess a few years back, with pangs of ‘I’m a terrible parent’. And all of my friends have had me leave their dinner party, quiz night and even a wedding to come to the call of a sick pet.

I am hugely grateful for their forgiveness and that they continue to put up with my crazy on call life.

So next time you go to call your vet out of hours, ask yourself ‘Do I need a superhero right now?’ If so, don’t hesitate, we will be there, but could this phone call wait until the morning………….?

* Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband, Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. She is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda

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Published April 18, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 16, 2024 at 6:39 pm)

Superheroes in scrubs

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