A new service is providing emergency care vets around Australia with a free information hub. By Clea Sherman
Driving home from his first ever shift at an overnight vet service in 2001, Dr Rob Webster had to quickly pull his car off the road. “The adrenaline from the long hours of emergency work in the practice made me throw up,” he shares. “But from that moment, I was completely hooked.”
Since then, Dr Webster has devoted his career to taking care of creatures in need of critical care. As one of the driving forces behind the Animal Emergency Service, now open in several locations around South East Queensland and Perth, he enables round-the-clock medical attention for pets and wildlife in need.
From setting broken bones to helping animals recover from tick and snake bites, Dr Webster is an expert in his field. Beyond his own work, he is motivated to share as much as he can with others who do the same.
To help practitioners around Australia fill their knowledge gaps, Dr Webster recently began a new mission to advance the field of emergency and critical care and ensure all animal patients receive the best standard of medical service.
“The issue with emergency practice is it changes so quickly,” explains Dr Webster, “Over the 18 years I have been in the industry, I have seen numerous treatment methods and protocols emerge, only to be out of date within one or two years.”
Spotting a need
As an emergency vet, understanding new techniques and best practices can mean the difference between life and death. However, it is difficult to find the time to upskill and stay on top of new developments. While there are a range of journals and conferences, until now no resource has provided a single source of truth.
To help vets around Australia, many of whom find themselves leaping out of bed at 3am to help a sick or injured animal, Dr Webster and his colleagues at the Animal Emergency Service have created a new online hub, VetAPedia.
This web-based resource brings together clinical protocols, flow charts and research papers in a central location for qualified practitioners. The information shared is sourced from journal reviews or references clinical content. It provides access to the latest best practices for emergency animal care, with new information added monthly.
At present, access to VetAPedia is free for registered veterinarians. The team behind the resource is hoping to open the service to veterinary nurses and other animal carers in the near future.
Although VetAPedia wasn’t designed to simply promote AES, Mark Brown of Engage Content says it’s a great example of how you can use your website as something more than just a shopfront or a brochure. “On the vast majority of vet websites, the only really useful information is directions to the clinic,” he says. “The rest of the content is generic descriptions of treatments offered, and staff profiles. If you don’t give your clients a good reason to visit your site, it may as well not exist.
“In the case of an animal emergency centre, one way to promote themselves to the wider community is through referrals from local vets. If local vets are using a site like VetAPedia, they are more likely to remember where that information is coming from—and more likely to steer clients their way when appropriate cases come up.”
With the help of VetAPedia, practitioners will quickly and easily have free resources at their fingertips. Where their own snake bite treatment protocols may be out of date, they can now log on to the platform and see the most recent treatment methods.
Information on topics ranging from how to perform CPR, dealing with poisoning and the use of fluid therapy will be readily available. Vets can also access reports and protocols related to anything from administering antibiotics and preventing the spread of superbugs to saving a puppy from liver failure.
The idea for VetAPedia came from a team retreat, where AES practitioners got together to talk about their ambitions.
Working after hours in often stressful conditions is challenging but Dr Webster and his colleagues wouldn’t have it any other way. “We realised that to stay true to our reason for existing, we needed to share what we learn with the rest of the profession.”
Creating and launching VetAPedia from scratch took around six months and has been funded by the AES. “We’re really hoping to build something useful to the whole veterinary profession.”
At present, Dr Webster and his team are not asking for financial support from practitioners who access the VetAPedia portal. The idea behind their platform is also one of collaboration, and the team hopes they will be able to build their own skills while helping others.
A nation-wide platform
VetAPedia is encouraging Australian vets to not only sign up and access information, but also to share their experiences and expertise.
“The platform isn’t only about AES broadcasting how to perform veterinary medicine,” says Dr Webster. “We want to work with other vets to share protocols and research so we can build materials for those who are struggling with critical care in practice.”
To be eligible to submit content to VetAPedia, directors and senior veterinarians must have practised in the field of emergency and critical care for a minimum of five years and be able to demonstrate expertise and technical skill. All resources are passed through a strict internal peer-review process before being published on VetAPedia.
After they have referred to VetAPedia for information on issues like surgical techniques or mechanical ventilation, vets are invited to share their feedback and suggestions. “VetAPedia has a forum where we hope to hear vets’ challenges and questions. We’ll put together answers based on their contributions so our resources continually develop over time,” says Dr Webster.
The ultimate aim of VetAPedia is to help those who work in the high-stakes environment of emergency animal care to save lives. Dr Webster and his team are motivated to collaborate with other vets so they can learn from each other. “Emergency care is a tough job. We hope to make a difference and drive more positive outcomes.” V
Visit VetAPedia at www.animalemergencyservice.com.au/vethub/