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AAHA standards require preparation for emergencies

AAHA-accredited hospitals are required to have emergency equipment and drugs readily available, stocked at all times, and in a portable container for those unscheduled emergencies that come through their doors. This helps ensure that team members are not running around the hospital trying to find items necessary to treat your pet. Having a dedicated emergency kit and area makes it convenient and easy for the entire team to get the necessary supplies from a central location within the hospital.

AAHA AccreditedOne recently accredited AAHA hospital knows firsthand how having an emergency kit in place (an AAHA mandatory standard) has made a big difference in handling its everyday emergencies. Trish Browning, practice manager of Gallatin Veterinary Hospital and Referral in Bozeman, Mont., believes this mandatory standard has made a difference in their hospital.

Before accreditation, there was no central location for emergency supplies, Browning said.

“For every emergency, we would run here and there looking for what was needed, and it was always chaotic and frustrating,” she explains.

But since accreditation, Browning says that things have changed for the better.

“We have used the emergency box multiple times, both for emergencies that walked in the door and for a couple that we had in surgery,” she says. “Getting our kit together has us becoming more prepared, and we now have in place ‘job descriptions’ for emergencies. That way everyone knows their job and what they are responsible for. It has improved us greatly.”

At Gallatin Veterinary Hospital and Referral, all members of the staff have a job assigned to them when an emergency arrives at their door. It all begins with the front office staff, the first ones to come in contact with the client and patient. They follow a set protocol for emergencies to ensure that everything runs smoothly and to help keep clients calm in a very stressful and emotional situation. In the back, staff members also are assigned specific tasks to ensure that everyone knows what their role is and to help alleviate any chaos during the emergency. Those duties include running oxygen, placing IV catheters and monitoring fluids, gathering emergency drugs, recording vitals and medications used, collecting blood and running other diagnostic tests, and keeping clients informed about their pet.

Here is one case where Gallatin’s emergency kit came in handy. Obie, a 4-year-old neutered pug/beagle mix came unannounced one Friday morning in October after being struck by a car and was in need of immediate emergency care. He had obvious severe head trauma from the accident and was minimally responsive, but no other visual signs of fractures were seen.

“The emergency protocols previously established helped to make a seamless and well-organized transition from an unanticipated, hit-by-car dog in the back of a car, to a critical-but-well-monitored patient,” Gallatin veterinarian, Colin Bonnett, DVM, states.

When Obie was brought to the back for treatment, the clinic’s emergency preparedness came into play.

“There is a dedicated area of our hospital for such emergencies, with all of the necessary components for emergency resuscitation and monitoring within arm’s reach,” Bonnett says. “The emergency kit was well stocked, including a laminated printout of emergency drugs and dosages.”

Within minutes, Obie had received an IV catheter and fluids, his vital signs had been taken and were being continuously monitored, as was his blood work and oxygen. Once Obie was stable enough and had responded to the initial treatments, Bonnett ordered full-body radiographs (X-rays) to check for fractures, internal bleeding/organ damage, and trauma to his lungs. With these radiographs, it became clear that Obie did not have any injury besides the head trauma.

After several hours of treatment, Obie was stable enough to be transferred to a local emergency and critical-care facility. That facility continued treatment and monitored his progress continuously over the weekend.

“Obie made a dramatic recovery, with no lasting signs of the significant head trauma,” Bonnett remarks.

Bonnett has this to say about the importance of working as a team and keeping the lines of communication open with the clients: “The importance of client communication is underscored in this kind of case, when the needed emergency treatments may change rapidly and therefore might, unfortunately, be costly. Maintaining clear lines of communication between the client-relations staff, doctors, and clients ensures a shared and well-defined understanding of the objectives and finances of these difficult cases. Similarly, the importance of having the emergency protocols and a well-stocked emergency kit cannot be overemphasized.”

AAHA-accredited hospitals meet a higher standard in everyday patient care to ensure the overall health and well-being of every patient and client seen at an accredited hospital. So the next time you have an emergency with one of your pets, rest assured that AAHA-accredited hospitals will be ready and prepared for those unexpected emergency cases that come through their doors.

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