Behind the scenes with Worthing’s emergency night vet

Vets Now Worthing are responsible for the out-of-hours service for more than 25 veterinary practices in the area, as well as any overnight emergencies.

From emergency C-sections to helping pets rest, it’s a hugely varied role

Vet nurse Olivia Hurst spends each night dealing with incoming emergency cases and monitoring, medicating and feeding the in-patients.

While most of the world is heading for bed, working life is only just beginning for Olivia. And it’s an action-packed whirlwind of helping save the lives and ease the agonies of Worthing pets.

The 26-year-old is a highly skilled vet nurse at Vets Now’s thriving Worthing clinic. Every night and weekend, sick animals are brought to the state-of-the-art Upper Brighton Road premises, often when it’s a matter of life and death.

“There is nothing more heartfelt and satisfying than seeing a patient make that journey of recovery from sickness to health”

Olivia knew she wanted to be a vet nurse from the moment she did work experience with a local vet. But, after qualifying and much experience, she realised she needed a life less ordinary and joined Vets Now last year.

“I enjoyed the fast-paced emergency and critical care, ECC, side of my role,” said Olivia. “But I wasn’t getting to be part of the action as much as I hoped.

“ECC is like a mix of accident & emergency and intensive care in a hospital. It can be emotionally challenging, but so rewarding.”

Olivia works a maximum of three shifts a week, mostly weekday nights.

At 6.30pm Vets Now Worthing take over out-of-hours service for more than 25 veterinary practices in the surrounding areas.

“We start a detailed handover of all the patients we’ll be responsible for looking after that night for those practices,” said Olivia. “All the medication, treatment, therapies and feeding plans from the patient’s own vet are written in a detailed hospital chart which we can follow precisely.”

As well as the nursing care for all the overnight patients, the clinic is the vital port of call for sick patients from all over the area.

“Our busiest time is usually between 6.30pm and midnight,” said Olivia. “It’s not uncommon to have 10 unwell patients travelling in at one time.

“Once they come in, I or one of the other nurses will triage them. Just like A&E, patients are prioritised for treatment based on clinical need rather than arrival time.

“Emergency surgery might be needed for a dog who can’t give birth and requires a Caesarean section. Or a cat may have an obstruction stopping it going to the toilet, which can cause heart and kidney damage.”

It’s a non-stop blur of dealing with incoming emergency cases and monitoring, medicating and feeding the in-patients. It’s just as critical they get sleep as well as attention – although that’s not an option for the veterinary team.

“It can be an emotional rollercoaster at times, so it’s really important to bond together,” said Olivia. “There is always a new story to be told or a laugh shared at 4am when the rush has finally subsided for a minute or two.”

At 7am the handover begins with the day team and around 8am some patients begin being transferred back to their own veterinary practice.

“There is nothing more heartfelt and satisfying than seeing a patient make that journey of recovery from sickness to health,” said Olivia. “It is definitely the most rewarding part of the role, and it is why I do what I do.”

The long shifts also have the reward of giving Olivia a great work-life balance with plenty time off.

And, yes, she spends that time with animals, too.

“The family black Labrador Evie is enjoying more exercise than ever, and our black and white rescue cat Trevor is very photogenic and enjoying even more cuddles!”