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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Don't Wear Good Clothes To Veterinary Work

Something I've learned in this profession is to not invest in nice clothing if I'm going to wear it to work.  I was reminded of that this week.

A regular patient of mine had received a nasty laceration about ten days ago, and I had to suture it closed.  He came in for a recheck today and was overall doing well but there was a lot of swelling around the wound.  After feeling it I concluded that it was a simple seroma.  This can happen when there is open space under the skin after an incision or wound.  Serum and a little blood builds up in the "dead space", sometimes resulting in a fluid-filled pocket.  His wound was in his left armpit and therefore had a lot of movement so it didn't surprise me that this had happened.

I had started removing stitches and was looking at the condition of the laceration when suddenly it burst open, spraying me with a copious amount of serum and blood.  This is a big dog so I was on the floor with him standing.  My position put his wound just in front of me, and as the liquid spurted out my legs were the first thing they it.  Before I had a chance to scoot out of the way I had about 20-30cc of fluid covering the insides of my legs.

There isn't much that can be done in situations like this.  I grabbed a towel and some gauze and expressed the remaining amount of the fluid.  The wound had opened up about a half-inch so I left the remaining sutures in place and put some skin staples in to close it again.  I was tempted to put in a drain tube, but we'll see how he does since it did have a chance to drain.

Some vets have learned to keep a pair of scrubs or a change of clothes with them just for situations like this one.  I'm not that smart or wise, and only had the one pair of pants.  I live 35 minutes from work, so there wasn't an easy way for me to run home and change.  Instead I ended up letting it dry and wearing those pants for the rest of the day.

I typically buy my shirts, pants, and shoes at Wal-Mart, Target, and thrift stores like Goodwill.  I just can't imagine paying $30 or more on a pair of nice slacks since I know that in the course of a day I'll get blood, pus, feces, urine, and who knows what else on them.  My shoes are typically inexpensive ones that can be replaced cheaply and easily.  I've also had clothing torn during struggles with pets, again discouraging me from investing in costly shirts or pants.  Many of my colleagues were scrubs during their day because of these very concerns, but I've never found scrubs all that comfortable.  My work-clothes look nice and are professional, but I also consider them somewhat disposable considering the fluids and materials I contact on a daily basis.

If you love nice clothing and want to work in the veterinary profession, have a second set of clothes that you wear to work.  I would hate to see someone who bought a designer-label shirt or blouse for $100 end up getting it covered with urine from a struggling dog.

On the positive side I certainly give my dogs some entertaining scents when I get home from work!