Meet Max, a 6-year-old Goldendoodle who's your typical happy and healthy pup. He gets his annual check-up, and his vaccinations are always up to date. But one morning, Max is not his usual self. He's relentlessly scratching his left ear and shaking his head, clearly uncomfortable. His concerned owner makes the call to the vet's office for help, and here's where the story gets interesting.
The receptionist answers with a warm hello but quickly asks, "If this is not an emergency, can I place you on hold?" Before you can even respond, you find yourself listening to a recording about heartworm prevention. When you finally get to explain Max's predicament, you're met with an apology – they're fully booked for the day. Your options are to wait for another day, possibly several days, or rush to the emergency room down the street. Not exactly the choices you had in mind, right?
Now, let's dive deeper into what's been happening in the veterinary world. Let's rewind to 2020, the time of COVID-19 when the world was in turmoil. Many people found themselves working from home, and their kids were attending school via Zoom in the living room. The family decided it was the perfect time to bring a pet into their lives. As more and more families welcomed pets, the demand for vet visits soared.
But it's not just the increased demand. The cost of pet supplies has skyrocketed, and there are delays for almost everything. Inflation is on the rise, jobs are being cut, and there are even limits on buying toilet paper. All these economic challenges have coincided with primary care veterinarians trying their best to keep up with the overwhelming demand.
The situation reached a point where something had to give. Be it communication, the vet-client relationship, compliance, or education, it was clear that we couldn't keep patching up this sinking ship individually. The exhaustion was palpable, and many veterinarians questioned whether they were in the right profession.
And then there's the issue of non-emergency cases like Max ending up in the emergency room. We all know an ear infection isn't a life-or-death emergency, but his owners had no other choice. The result? Hours spent in a crowded lobby, or nowadays, waiting in their cars due to COVID-19 restrictions. Critical cases rightly took precedence, but the wait was agonizing.
Let's talk about the elephant in the room: the cost. Emergency room visits cost significantly more than those to primary care vets. The reason?
They need more staff, equipment, space, medications, and technology to handle a wide range of emergencies. We need emergency rooms, but they should focus on actual emergencies, not cases like Max's.
Our colleagues in the emergency room are exhausted, not only from long hours but also from the emotional toll of explaining the costs and, at times, suggesting euthanasia if the expenses become unmanageable. Compassion fatigue and burnout are real, and it's time we address these issues.
So, could veterinary urgent care be the answer? It's not a magical fix, but it could be a significant step towards healing from within. If cases like Max's could be seen in urgent care rather than the ER, we would alleviate the primary care vets' workload, allowing them to focus on preventive and chronic care, building trust and relationships with their clients once more.
This shift would also ease the burden on the emergency room, ensuring they focus on genuine emergencies and provide the quality care they're meant to deliver.
Clients, you'd finally have an alternative. You might prefer to see your primary care vet, but understanding the "why" behind the lack of immediate availability, and having an urgent care option, could strengthen your loyalty to your primary care veterinarian.
And for pets like Max, we see you, we care about you, and we know you shouldn't have to wait in pain for non-emergency conditions.
Veterinary urgent care is here to bridge the gap and provide timely care for pets in need.
EVS Urgent Care was founded to address all these critical needs. Dr. Jordana Eisenstein Rosen and her team have taken a bold step to make a difference for veterinarians, clients, and pets. Together, we can build a stronger and more compassionate veterinary community.