The first thing that happens when your pet arrives at an emergency hospital is they are triaged.
What is Triage?
“Triage” is a medical term that helps insure that the most urgent patients are seen and treated first. Patients with more life-threatening conditions are prioritized, followed by more stable patients. You are probably familiar with this approach at the human hospital.
When you arrive at Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care the first thing our medical staff will do is immediately triage your pet. So, what does that mean? In summary, we see patients based on their medical needs. not on the order of arrival. This allows the most critical patients to receive care in the quickest manner possible.
How are Pets Triaged?
Upon arrival, one of our trained team members will assess your pet. The technician will not diagnose or treat your pet. They will look for things such as respiratory distress, alertness, and apparent physical abnormalities. They may ask you what signs and symptoms you have seen and obtain a brief history. They record vitals in your pet’s record and alert the ER doctor of your arrival. Based on this information, the medical team will determine how urgent your pet’s case is, what needs to be done, and prioritize your pet in relation to other patients.
For an example, a pet with a history of eating a toxic substance may be pushed to the front of the line over a dog with a torn toenail.
Each hospital follows a protocol for checking on your pet at certain time intervals (i.e. every 30 minutes) to ensure nothing has changed.
Once all patients with more urgent cases are stable and an emergency veterinarian is available, your pet will be seen. This may mean a 30-minute wait or much longer depending upon the ER caseload and triage order of current and incoming cases.
We truly do appreciate your patience and understanding while you’re with us.
Please try to remember: if you’ve been waiting a while in the front lobby (or your car), you’re probably having a much better day than the person next to you. We’re here for you, and all the pets in our communities.
What Can You Do as a Pet Owner?
There are a few things you can do as a pet owner to help with the triage process:
Call ahead: Calling ahead will allow our medical team to prepare for your arrival. If your pet was in a serious accident or ingested a toxic substance, we can have the medical team prepare a treatment table with the required equipment and medications as well as have a staff member wait for you in the lobby.
Gather all your pet’s information: Be ready to explain what’s going on with your pet. If you have a copy of their medical records available to bring with you, this will help too. If your pet ingested a medication or other substance, please bring the package and/or medication with you to the hospital. This will save a lot of time and potentially save your pet’s life!
Be your pet’s advocate: if you notice your pet worsen while you’re waiting, tell the client care staff immediately.
Be patient with us: we know how frustrating it can be to spend a few hours in the waiting room (or car) on a Saturday afternoon. We always strive to see all patients quickly, and we promise to see your pet as soon as we can. Make sure you have a cell phone charger and something to occupy your time (book, magazine, etc). If you need to leave, please let our team know so that we can make sure we have appropriate and accurate contact information.
Realize our team is here for you: even though you may not work with your pet’s emergency veterinarian through the entire visit, all of our technicians, assistants, and support staff are highly trained, educated, and working together (though you may not see it firsthand) to provide excellent care for your pet.