Animal clinic provides emergency careEmployees push past staffing struggles

Behind the scenes of one of Odessa’s two emergency animal clinics, veterinary technicians like Sydney Baer are pushing through long shifts to deliver care.
Dr. Ann Wills of the West Texas Emergency Veterinary Clinic on North Grandview Avenue said although the clinic is shorthanded, “we don’t turn away anybody.”
Emergency severity is assessed upon an animal’s arrival and patients are triaged according to their need for emergency medical attention. Wills said this can sometimes result in wait times for non-critical patients.
“ A lot of our staff is working overtime or extra shifts and sometimes we’re understaffed for what we need to be, especially on the weekends and holidays,” she said.
Wills is a managing partner as well as a veterinarian for the clinic and said she actually lives in Weatherford but commutes to the area for a string of shifts for about 10 days in a row before she is relieved for two weeks by one of the other two veterinarians.
She said business has kept pace with the growth of the Permian Basin but staffing levels have not.
“ We’re understaffed like a lot of businesses are and though our pay is probably at the top of what veterinary clinics pay, we can’t pay what the oil field does,” Wills said.
The clinic sees about 20 patients between 6 p.m. and midnight during a single weeknight and closer to 100 patients on the weekend, when the clinic is open 24 hours.
Thirty-five animals were hospitalized at the clinic on Wednesday for things such as congestive heart failure, canine parvovirus (parvo) and stem cell therapy to prevent a paw amputation.
Cages along the facility’s walls were completely filled with patients.
“ We’re out of space so we’re using some temporary cages as well,” she said.
Baer moved one dog from a crate to a room with x-ray equipment and said she chose to be a veterinary technician for the opportunity to learn something new every day.
Veterinary medicine includes treating cases where animals have been hit by a vehicle, bitten by a rattlesnake, injured in dog fights or have consumed poisonous items like medications.
“ In this area, we probably deal with more toxicities than in other areas of the country just because of the oilfield,” Wills said. “Many people take their dogs out there with them and they can get into a host of toxins, we may not even know what they got into. We treat symptomatically and hope for the best.”
Baer said those success stories make the long hours and days when staff members are exhausted worth it.
“ The role of the pet in the home has changed a lot over the last 45 to 50 years to where these are truly family members and they’re emotionally important to people,” Wills said. “We have a lot of responsibility to these clients and so it feels good when we get to send (pets) home.”
Darlyn Serrano, an Odessa College student and veterinary technician, said she gained veterinary experience at the West Texas Emergency Veterinary Clinic when she was a student two years ago at Odessa High School through an animal science program.
Wills said two externs are selected from the Ector County Independent School District every year to gain vocational skills and exposure to the field.
Serrano said her first day on the job was hectic with technicians running back and forth between patients, but said she valued the skills she has learned during her time at the clinic.
Wills said the program also helps ease some of the workload on employed staff members.
“ We just need more hands on deck,” Wills said. “We’re looking for assistant technicians because they help a lot as far as cleaning cages, doing laundry and holding dogs for us, but we’re also looking for licensed, experienced techs too.”