What is a Veterinary Criticalist?
An Emerging Role for Veterinary Critical Care
The American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care is a relatively new addition to the specialties and sub-specialties currently available to the veterinary profession. Specialists in this field require additional, rigorous education after graduating from an accredited veterinary school. They must undergo a one-year internship followed by an additional 3-years of training focusing on the most up-to-date techniques for diagnosis and treatment of life-threatening disease processes. This intensive program is referred to as a “residency.”
As an evolving specialty, our objective is to provide continuous therapy to those animals that are stricken by severe disease. Some illnesses may require several days of therapy before improvement occurs. During this time, close monitoring and life support measures in the intensive care unit may be required to bridge the gap between the initial hospital visit and recovery.
Veterinary Criticalists frequently act as directors of the entire emergency service. They provide thorough oversight for emergency doctors and technicians through individual case rounds, lectures, wet-labs and direct mentorship, thereby elevating the quality of care provided to patients 24 hours a day.
In many instances, Criticalists are also available for direct referral from local colleagues. Examples may include septic shock, trauma victims, peri-operative case management, lung disease or respiratory distress, multiple organ dysfunction, neurological crises or a variety of blood abnormalities, some of which may require transfusions. Most criticalists also offer a variety of advanced, cutting-edge therapies such as respiratory ventilation or hemodialysis which can help support a very sick animal.
Another primary responsibility is to continuously oversee animals hospitalized in a dedicated intensive care unit. This ward is available to any service who feels their patient requires more aggressive monitoring and care than what is offered in intermediate hospital wards. This provides continuous doctor-patient interaction, uninterrupted care and monitoring for those cases managed by clinicians on other services. For instance, a surgeon can rest assured that their patient continues to recover safely, while they are called into the next surgery. If an unstable animal requires anesthesia, a criticalist is involved in developing and implementing the safest anesthetic plan possible.
As medicine becomes more and more advanced, a veterinary criticalist is becoming an integral part of any specialty or emergency veterinary hospital. Animals hospitalized in the intensive care unit may have very serious and potentially life-threatening diseases. Providing state-of-the-art care and ensuring seamless integration across all hospital services gives your pet every advantage to reach a full recovery.