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Good nursing of the emergency and critical care patient is essential. From triage to assessment, fluid therapy and monitoring, the veterinary nurse has a vital role to play. From telephone triage checklists, initial and follow-up assessment of the cardiovascular, respiratory and central nervous system to patient comfort, this paper gives an overview how the veterinary nurse can assist in the care for the emergency and critical care patient.

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Initial triage


A very basic triage assessment should be able to be carried out within 90 seconds, focusing upon the three major body systems: the respiratory system, cardiovascular system and central nervous system.


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A systematic assessment of the major body systems will give essential information on the interventions that need to be carried out. It does not necessarily require a lot of equipment to carry out major body system assessments; observations, palpation and auscultation are just as important.

Telephone triage


In many cases, the first point of contact for an emergency patient is the client calling the practice and speaking to either a receptionist or veterinary nurse. Appropriate telephone triage is a skill that is relevant to every member of the practice team.

It is therefore sensible to have a checklist of questions for clients when they contact the clinic. ...


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by Katherine Howie

Nursing the critical care patient – part 1: triage

Volume 26(3), Autumn 2016

Commissioned paper