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So Many Other Things: The Reality of Veterinary Practice Part 2 - Hustle & Bustle

Posted in So Many Other Things... @ Dec 6th 2018 - By Michael Weinhardt, Michael Weinhardt Photography
So Many Other Things Part 2 Hustle And Bustle

Holding a mirror to the veterinary industry to show the realities you work with every day.

“If only vetting just consisted of treating sick animals. But it didn’t. There were so many other things.”

- James Herriot, If Only They Could Talk

Image: 3:10pm Nurse Kelsey Savage in the midst of a busy day. 3 April 2018.


Part 2 Hustle & Bustle

The rhythm of a typical day at Brudine is dictated by an ongoing tussle between order and unpredictability.

Setting order are the appointments schedule (for consultations) and the hospital board (for surgeries, diagnostics, observations and boarders).

Like flight controllers, receptionists direct the flow of owners and pets through the practice, add and change appointments, take calls, process payments, fill prescriptions and handle strays.

Vets and vet nurses do the rest. Vets consult, operate and assist. Vet nurses support them, admitting and discharging patients, doing lab tests, assisting with surgery and recovery, cleaning (a lot) and helping in reception.

On rare days, nothing unplanned happens. On the rarest, there are moments when nothing happens at all, although they feel more like being in the eye of a storm than relaxing. Especially when most days swirl with unpredictability around staff, driven by emergencies, walk-ins seeking appointments, consultations extending, surgeries encountering complications and owners needing time to process and grieve.

“Even though you have a vague idea about what’s going to happen today, there’s always a curveball,” said Nurse Skye Longley. “You never know what’s going to walk through the door. Every day is different, every procedure is different, every surgical case is different.”

Dr Fiona Starr said, “You can check the book on Friday and think, ‘Yep, Monday looks fantastic, it looks nicely ordered.’ But all it takes is a couple of emergencies and the workload changes from manageable to difficult.”

Starr also said that the dynamic work environment of a veterinary practice means, “you have to be quite liquid and adaptable to cope with those situations, and to know what can be deferred and what needs to be done straight away.”

Starr provided an example from a surgical perspective. “If you have a huge number of surgeries and then a couple of emergencies are thrown into the mix, you have to be able to tell a client whose pet was booked in a week ahead for elective surgery: ‘We can’t do Fluffy today and have to reschedule.’”

Dr Grace Butler accepted that long and hectic days – where lunches are missed and staff can stay late – are part of the job, though as she said, they mean she “appreciates the work/life balance of the job. Everyone at Brudine is really good at making sure you have time off. Fiona [Dr Starr] gets very worried when you don’t have time off. After my time here, I can definitely understand why; if I was working like this all day, every day, I wouldn’t want to do it.”

8:15 am. Nurse Chelsea Rose does a basic examination while admitting Lucy for day surgery (de-sexing). 22 March 2018.

9:25 am. Head Nurse Stephanie Robertson admits Olivet for surgery to repair a torn Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CrCL), relating the necessary details to Oliver's owner Xarlene Castro. 9 March 2018.

9:38 am. Dr Jessica Winsall surveys the hospital board during rounds. 14 December 2017.

9:55 am. The wariness of strangers and subsequent defensiveness being exhibited by Diesel is common to the Shar Pei. Diesel's owners let staff know he might need care, which gives staff the cue they need to take precautions to protect themselves and Diesel. 2 January 2018.

10:38 am. Dr Fiona Starr in the middle of an orthopaedic surgery. 7 December 2017.

10:48 am. The washing machine and dryer never stop at a practice like Brudine. 13 January 2018.

11:55 am. Marilena Caputo has brought Coco to Brudine since he was an eleven week old puppy (in 2002). The now sixteen year old is feeling a few effects of aging, including possible eye troubles for which he is in today. 24 February 2018.

12:54 pm. Nurse Julie Marten (left) and Dr Karen Viggers. 23 February 2018.

2:49 pm. A rare break, more "eye of the storm" than "chilling out". 27 February 2018.

5:19 pm. Dr Fiona Starr explains to Xarlene Castro why the scheduled orthopaedic surgery on her dog, Oliver, was cancelled. Between the initial diagnosis and today, Oliver's body had begun to stabilise the area around his ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CrCL). Specifically, fibrosis had formed in the area around the knee. Surgery would have yielded no significant improvement and opening the joint might have predisposed Oliver to arthritis. 9 March 2018.

5:28 pm. Nurse Julie Marten uses a refractometer to measure the specific gravity of a pet's urine, an imbalance of which could indicate a range of conditions. 21 February 2018.

6:00 pm Nurse Chelsea Rose returns a dog during the final part of the discharge process. 16 February 2018.

Click here to visit the 'So Many Other Things..' Blog Category to read more in the series


About Michael - in his words...


I make long-form photographic essays that are faithful to my subjects and their stories.

I have spent a decade in the USA, Peru, Cuba, and Australia, covering stories about people whose lives I can't not be interested in.

Most recently, I completed a photographic documentary about the reality of veterinary practice, called SO MANY OTHER THINGS. It was shot over a year and released on September 24, 2018.

Previously, I spent from 2012 to 2015 documenting music and friendship in an Australian metal band, FRANKENBOK. 

Other stories I've photographed over the last 10 years can be found in my Archive.

Contact Michael via: Website -  So Many Other Things


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