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Working at a hospital during COVID-19 by a tired, grateful student

INSTAGRAM @valentology   
Valerie Ordonez is a third-year veterinary student attending the Western University of Health Science. She is a proud member of the Latinx community and has worked rigorously in establishing an online platform for them on Instagram at @latinx.vet.gang. Through this platform, she hopes to explore and uplift each Latinx student in their journey to becoming a veterinarian. She loves bringing larger platforms together to make an impact within the field. Valerie’s dream is to become a small animal practice owner, encouraging further diversity and inclusivity to the community.

If you wonder why you are here, remember today: you make an impact.

The time is 8:35 p.m. on Saturday, March 14, 2020.

Four cases left in the waiting room. Two patients recovering from emergency surgeries. Six boarding cats. The hospital closes at 9 p.m. and we haven’t even started close out procedures.

We are all at the end of our shifts, exhausted, nervous, stressed, and wondering if the workload will ever end. While in the treatment room, it is obvious we are tired from the volume of case, defeated from the failed attempts at placing IV catheters (on the first try), and worried about the conditions of our current patients. But, in the waiting room, we don’t have the luxury to show those emotions because we understand that someone out there is relying on us. We find hiding spots to bring our peace together, we fix our scrubs, wash our hands, and keep moving forward. With that, a thought dawned on me while preparing for a new case. I stared at the file and asked myself, “Why are the clients here?”

Why, at a time when the world is going through the lowest point, did this family choose to put their pets first? I have tried to pretend for the longest time that the COVID-19 pandemic does not affect me or my work in the veterinary community. I have tried to embrace the challenges of online classes, the lack of clinical rotations, and the restrictions of staying at home. So, when I am still standing here wondering, “Why they are here?” all I can say is thank you. Thank you to the client who is prioritizing their pet during this time of need.

It is scary, I know (I am scared too), but they still made it a point to put their animal first and I understand why. They need a holding hand to help them process the news of their hours being cut, their futures being postponed, or even dealing with the prognosis of their pets. People need information, they need to know that they are and their pets are safe and they choose us. Out of all the people in the world, healthcare systems and community centers, they rely on me, my coworkers, and the hospital to do just that in a time of need.

So, I thank you for believing in the veterinary field.

Following, I walk to the front of the waiting room, and I observe my co-workers discharge patients, fill out medications, and take new cases, all with a smile and then wonder “why are we all here?” But in this case, I understand why. It is because we know that every single person in this room needs a strong person.

Thank you for realizing that while veterinary medicine is the most underrepresented healthcare community right now, you see the importance in prioritizing making it to your shift. You acknowledge that in these hard times, you are needed and while you do put your health at risk, you still chose to hold the community’s hand and help guide people through the stress of having their pet being ill.

People need stability and comfort and you made it clear this was important to you. By showing up, you make it known that the veterinary community stands stronger together against any adversity even when the world is sick. If anyone ever questioned your role in health, remember you stood strong during the quarantine period when no one believe you could. This goes out to all the receptionists, kennel attendants, assistants, techs, and doctors. I know you are all scared and this not an ideal situation, but you chose to be here and today you have taught me to be a better human and (future) veterinarian.

Finally, as I take the patient to the scale, I notice my reflection from the window and I ask myself, “Why am I here?” and the answer is obvious… because I know anyone in my shoes understands that today we make an impact. Today, and the next day, we will be remembered as the technician/doctor who welcomed the family during their lowest points. We will be the face of the community that desperately needed someone to finally say, “No problem, how can I help?” We may be stressed and scared, but those who stand united in the veterinary community will be remembered as the strongest healthcare profession and to me that is enough.

Sincerely,

Valerie Ordonez

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