Night shift

Working night shifts for vets is a bit like Marmite – some colleagues love it, some loathe it…….

Working through the night (or part of it) is messing up one’s internal clock and it can be very disruptive for a “normal” family life. A busy night with a lot of emergencies or critical patients can be very draining and as night work is more likely to involve seeing very ill patients, the mental strain on the veterinary team can be considerable.

In the last few years of running my own clinic, I had progressively back away from additional night work as I could rely on the services of a dedicated night clinic fairly close by. Admittedly this was a godsend, as the double commitment with both the daily running of the clinic and of my involvement with FECAVA would have made it virtually impossible to provide also a decent night cover. I can re-call weeks when I got by with no more than 4 hours of sleep in a single night. Thankfully vets are always on their feet, so falling asleep while working was difficult……

Luckily though I am both a bit of a night-owl and I can function pretty well with very little sleep and then there is still the wonderful effect of a freshly brewed coffee…..

Working night shifts here in the North during the winter month is absolutely perfect for me: with work starting at 4 pm, I have enough time to stay long enough in bed in the morning, have time for a long run (ok – skiing would have been much better) and I still have time to see some of the towns and especially the beautiful countryside during day light. When the light is fading the work is starting.

When entering the clinic, most of the routine clients have been seen and you help with everything that is still to be treated and you familiarize yourself with the patients that will stay for the night. All the patients that are seen from now on are emergencies and you basically have to be prepared for everything….

At the same time the team is now reduced to just a handful of staff and in a larger place like Kumla, you never know who will be joining you this night. There is however always a strong camaraderie in the team – we are all in the same boat trying to steer it safely through the night and while sitting with a patient that is recovering from an operation or a patient having his seizures controlled, there is always some time to talk and to learn more about the people living in this part of the world, their background, their views of the place and their hopes and expectations. There is also usually the time to take a break, sitting together in a small group over a coffee and surely someone had brought along some food to be shared.

The consultations too I find more rewarding – the clients are understandably very worried about their pets and you can usually spend more time with them explaining why you do what. Some of my most memorable conversations with pet owners that I had in Virginia Water took place in the middle of the night while their dogs were recovering from cesarean sections, from gastric torsions or spleen ectomies.

Thankfully all my patients from last night are now back home with their owners, I had the pleasure making the acquaintance of a new canine member of the team and I even got a few hours of sleep……..the next night shift can come……..

Published by The Blue Vet

I am a veterinary surgeon with a German and Norwegian educational background. I have been the founder and for over 20 years I have been the senior veterinarian at the Virginia Water Veterinary Clinic in Surrey, England. When starting this blog I was also the President of FECAVA, the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations. In the summer of 2019 I left my clinic to work as an international locum and clinical advisor. I am interested in all aspects of clinical companion animal medicine, in endurance sports and in traveling and meeting people with and without their pets and especially in sharing my knowledge with colleagues in other parts of Europe and the World.

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