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Triage in a veterinary hospital involves assessing the severity of each patient’s condition and prioritizing care based on the level of urgency. As a CSR, you are on the frontlines of handling a client when they call or arrive at your clinic with their pet that needs care fast. How valuable would it be to have a team of veterinary professionals you can trust and rely upon to save your pet’s life in an emergency situation? Keep in mind, you are your clients… just on the other side of the exam table.

What is Urgent vs. Emergency?

Both urgent and emergency situations feel the same to clients that are scared and unsure of their pet’s health status. They need someone to assist immediately with the help that their pet needs and assurance from your team that you will do your very best to provide excellent care in this type of situation.

Urgent situations are not quite emergencies, but can quickly turn into one if it’s not handled properly and timely. Any patient that needs urgent or emergency care should be treated and stabilized as soon as possible.

Understanding Triage

Emergency and urgent visits happen every day in veterinary medicine. It is extremely important for the entire veterinary team to have a great understanding of how to determine and act upon the crucial life-saving steps for these patients. From the CSR team to the DVMs, triage plays an important role in ensuring your team is providing the best care possible and everyone should be trained on how to handle urgent and emergency situations. This training should kick in gear when these situations arise without hesitation. 

What Is Most Important in Triage?

Critical information gathering, a trained & ready-team, and timing is most important! 

CSRs can lend a huge hand to assisting the medical team triage a patient before they arrive. Often, clients call the vet clinic in a panic looking for help for their pet that is experiencing a medical emergency. This is the time the CSRs can make a huge difference! They should stay calm, ask the appropriate questions, and ensure they’re able to give the pet owner the direction they need to know what to do at that very moment. Once the patient arrives, the CSR should be prepared to meet them at the door to assist with the client and ensure the patient is safely transferred to the treatment area. At this time, the medical team will be assessing the patient, and the CSR can continue to calm the client and collect additional details about the case. 

An important detail to keep in mind is that if a client has a true emergency, and there’s an open vet clinic or Animal ER closer to them, they should be directed to go there to the closer hospital. It is ill-advised to direct them to your clinic if it is further away. Every single second could determine the outcome of this pet’s dire situation. 

Triage Team Training

Everyone from CSRs to Licensed Techs need to have emergency trainingIt is best to have role playing sessions a couple of times a year to ensure everyone on the team understands the importance of their role when it comes to emergencies and urgent care.  

The CSRs are the first responders, be it on the phone or walk-in, they should remain calm and professional in their demeanor and assure the client that their team will do their very best to help this pet. Without proper training, the CSR team could miss vital information that could help save their patients’ lives. 

What the CSR should do to be prepared for arrival of an emergency

  1. Is this pet an existing patient? If so, pull records and have them readily available for the DVM or Tech before arrival
  2. Prepare client paperwork such as release/treatment/DNR forms
  3. Payment policy for emergencies (could be different for new vs existing client)
  4. Get things ready such as an exam room for your client, stretcher at the front door (or the usual in-take door) and possibly have a Vet Tech on standby
  5. Be sure to let the team know an emergency is on the way!

Triage Checklists

PetDesk has created some helpful triage checklists to help you ensure that you are asking the right questions and properly assessing the severity of care needed.

CSRs play a vital role when it comes to caring for clients and patients alike. Both are important and both must be catered to when emergency situations arise. Being a good veterinary triage CSR can mean life or death for the patient coming your way, are you prepared? Are you confident? Be both! Leading the change to get team training for the team, and being the safety net when clients and their pets arrive all play a major role in becoming a literal lifesaver.

Download Triage Checklists