College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences

Publish Date

17 May 2021

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Never a dull moment in Emergency Service

When JCU alumni, Dr Brooke Schampers, began working with the Animal Emergency Service in Brisbane, she quickly discovered that she had entered a wild world. From patients in need of urgent care to the long nights of shift work, Dr Brooke shares her experience as an Emergency Intern.

You never know what your shift will hold when you walk through the doors of the Emergency Room. No day is ever the same. Sure, the cases might be similar, such as the vomiting, which brings a comforting aspect to the role. But each patient walks in with their own story.

Within moments, a quiet shift can turn into carnage with three crash patients arriving — one needing CPR, the other with a haemoabdomen and the third, a dog attack wound. All the while, you have a client who’s been waiting 30 minutes because their dog has sore ears and we work on a triage basis.

I honestly love what I do. The adrenaline and unknown brings a certain thrill to balance out the mundane task of shift paper work. The internship began with shadowing senior vets to learn consulting styles, diagnostic and treatment protocols, and key client communication skills. I then transitioned into a solo-consulting role with case responsibility and patient decision-making. I am one month away from completing my internship with the Animal Emergency Service — ending in two exams to ensure I have the required level of knowledge.

Brooke giving fluffy dog a dog treat
Brooke at computer looking at an x-ray

Support makes all the difference

I am fortunate to be supported by senior clinicians every night and there is always someone on call to discuss cases or assist in surgery. This, I have learned, is one of the most valuable aspects in a first job. It takes the stress out of making decisions. You don’t have to lie awake at night wondering if you made the right treatment choice, because another older and wiser veterinarian was there to guide you.

So if I have one piece of advice for new graduates it would be to find a job where you are supported every step of the way. No one tells you of the constant mental stress caused by the decision making process, because in reality you don’t know everything and worrying about a case long after it’s over is torture.
Dr Brooke Schampers 

A career in emergency medicine is an emotional rollercoaster — there are huge wins and big losses. We see the most critical animals in Australia and it is heartbreaking to lose patients but in turn, you also say goodbye to patients you have just met. That may seem a little cynical but it is often too soon to develop an emotional connection, which does make this side of the work easier.

Brooke wearing scrubs and giving thumbs up
Brooke checking fluffy dog's ear

A balancing act

The hours are long and the shifts are irregular but this works for me. Shift life definitely has its perks.

Doing three to four shifts a week allows for an interesting work life balance. It means the cafes are always quiet, the roads are free of traffic and there is time to enjoy the sunshine. Sleeping becomes an art form — carefully timing naps prior to long shifts, and then not sleeping too long into the day to avoid a poor sleep cycle. I am fortunate to be able to sleep whenever and where ever, but for those looking at a career in ER it is important to consider if this balance is right for you.

Every shift is different, with its own highs and lows. I get that emergency buzz often; a jolt of adrenaline when a GDV arrives or I diagnose a case of IMHA. But nothing quite matches the feeling when a critically ill patient returns to their family.

For more of Dr Brooke’s adventures in the ER, follow her on Instagram @doctor_brooke.

Are you interested in being the help that an injured animal needs? Consider what you could do with JCU Veterinary and Animal Science.

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