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Language of the Vet Practice...

Written By: Jane Davidson RVN

It’s been a rough month: Tillie isn’t well, Hollie has a spot on her bottom and my car is in the palliative care stage of life.

Of these three things it’s the car I find hardest, emotionally. I’m not great when my pets are ill, but I know the vet world and its nuances. I don’t know the car world quite so well, despite caring for my car just as well as I care for my pets.

It’s sometimes the different way language is used to describe time that can be a hurdle to understanding what is going on and this was brought home to me on a trip to get my car fixed.

I had been told my car would be about 2 hours to get fixed, but on the day when I asked when I should pick it up, I was told ‘it depends how long it takes to get it on the ramp’.

As a client this made little sense to me as I could see:

  • My car was the only one near the ramp
  • The ramp was empty
  • So I would think it could be ‘on the ramp’ in 3 minutes

However I don’t understand what ‘getting the car on the ramp’ means so maybe the ramp is in a different garage a few miles away and not the ramp I see? Who knows! Anyway, I had work to do so I toddled off to a coffee shop and hoped for the best, but that was just for a car - how stressful is a vet visit if you’ve no idea what time things will happen and what they are talking about?

It’s this hidden aspect of how the average vet practice works that can be confusing to us clients. As a vet nurse I know what approximately what time following phrases mean:

  • After morning consults
  • Lunch
  • After ops/procedures/theatre

To help you decipher timings in the average vet practice I’ll tell you a little of the working day. It might be a surprise - when consulting stops we’re still there working!

The day starts at 7.30-8.00 with staff arriving, possibly relieving the night shift. In a standard first opinion practice the day will usually be split into:

  • Morning consults 8.30-10.30 or 11
  • Theatre for surgery 11-2 or 3
  • Evening consults 4-6 or 7

This may vary if there’s different staffing levels, or if urgent cases come in, or a planned patient arrives with something unexpected that needs resolving at once.

If we go back to our list of commonly used time frames we can now add actual time slots to these, so you as a client has an idea of what we are talking about!

  • After morning consults - 10.30-12pm
  • Lunch - anytime from 1-4pm - and this doesn’t mean anyone has lunch it’s a nominal name for time to catch up on everything
  • After ops/procedures/theatre - 3-5pm

So what does this mean as a client? Going to the vets shouldn’t be hard work and you can help by letting them know when you’re available to speak to and what number you’ll be on - they’ll take time to make sure they call when you are free.

Veterinary practice timings can be complicated; medicine and surgery aren’t exact sciences when it comes to how long something takes. Patients can often be hiding all sorts of complicated issues and you never know who will turn up unannounced! If you ever don’t understand when someone is going to call you, or ask you to come back, then do ask them to give you a time frame - using normal clock readings and not their personal description of their daily diary!

For me, it really did take about 3 minutes to get my car ‘on the ramp’ and after two hours working in the coffee shop I was back at the garage and driving home, happy that I now understood just a little bit more about fixing a car, even if it was just about ‘getting it on the ramp’.


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