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Bridging the Gap: Switching from GP to ER (or Vice Versa)

Samantha Toy, RVT Dec 14, 2018 4:02:12 PM Vet Tech

It's not uncommon for vets, technicians, and hospital managers to decide to switch things up and start working in a different type of practice.  Whether it's going from general practice to emergency medicine or vice versa, there are lots of things to consider while making the switch.

Emergency team members share the same efforts in the veterinary field to improve the lives of pets and their owners. Even though generally the medical approach seems identical (investigate, diagnose, treat), considering the working hours, client relationship and pace of work, these two fields require different skills and mindsets. An important thing to remember is that both professions depend on each other to provide high standards of care for their patients. 


What skills are transferable?

There isn’t a skill that you've already mastered that won’t prove to be useful in a new field. Everything you learned in the emergency facility will serve you well while performing in general practice, and vice versa. The goal once in the new type of hospital is to enhance those skills needed the most. Emergency rooms require high self-confidence, fast thinking, fast decision-making, and communication skills to calm down anxious clients. In general practice, one needs to enhance organizational skills, communication skills, and long-term management of chronic diseases.




The new body clock

When general practitioners are done for the day, emergency teams are just starting their shifts, and when the emergency team is headed to bed, the GP team is getting out of it. If you worked for many years in the same field, you will likely have a hard time adapting to the new routine that comes with changing practices. In addition to adapting to new sleeping hours, you'll also need to manage new times to eat, run errands, and exercise. Your body will need time to ‘digest’ all of this, but if you try to see the positive aspects of working at night/during the day you will soon find yourself in a comfortable spot.


Different pace and relationship with clients

In general, teams working in general practices will encounter more calm and relaxed clients. They take their time focusing on patient care and working up cases, aiming to improve their patient’s well being and all the while cultivating the all-important client/clinic relationship. In emergency practices, it’s typically a whole different story. Clients come in with a high level of anxiety and expect immediate improvement of their pet’s state.  This creates a unique challenge for the veterinary team: running tests, diagnosing, and treating patients in just a few hours, while also keeping finances and careful client communication in mind. Of course there will always be quiet nights in the ER and crazy days in the GP, which is why keeping your previously learned skills in mind is important.




What can be learned from each type of practice?

If you worked in the emergency you most likely learned how to think and act fast, how to make decisions on your own, helped you to gain a sense of self-confidence and to become more self-dependent. These traits will help you extraordinarily when you move to general practice.  On the other hand, general practitioners are extremely dedicated to improving the well-being of animals on a long-term basis while guiding the pet (and their owner) through an entire lifespan, which helps to develop a fantastic ability to communicate with clients.  This is crucial to bring with you to emergency work where you will encounter people experiencing extremely stressful situations with their beloved pets.


Overall, whether you're moving from a fast-paced ER to a family-oriented GP or vice versa, there are plenty of considerations to make.  But making the change will also allow you to become a more well-rounded veterinary team member, which can only lead to success!



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