What exactly is a Criticalist?
A Criticalist is a specialist in emergency and critical care. A veterinary criticalist is ready for any type of emergency coming through the hospital door. They may be providing support for more routine stable cases in a busy emergency room, but they are quick to jump in on those cases that are the sickest or those that need the most urgent/life saving intervention. Criticalists often consult with your family veterinarian, emergency veterinarians and coordinate care with other specialists on complex cases. They are ready for urgent care involving cardiovascular compromise, respiratory failure, sepsis, significant coagulopathy, or cardiac arrest to only name a few of the more serious presenting concerns.
As with all specialists, criticalists are required to complete an internship followed by a three-year residency program through the American College of Veterinary Critical Care (ACVECC). They are required to publish research in an accredited journal and fulfill other requirements to be a well-rounded clinician. This includes specific training in all other specialties such as neurology, surgery, internal medicine, anesthesia, cardiology, etc. This is just as important as true ICU/ER training as the cases coming into the hospital can be very unpredictable. During these three years, they spend a significant amount of time on the clinic floor supporting the emergency room, and directing the intensive care unit. This involves dealing with the sickest patients providing minute-to-minute, individualized patient care.
This specialty is becoming more common and a huge resource to a well-rounded hospital. A criticalist is also a specialist, just like an oncologist, internist, cardiologist, or surgeon. Criticalists may also provide support and consultation to other specialists on cases, during procedures, or potential complications that may arise.
Never a dull moment
No one wants to hear that their family member is in critical condition, but when you do hear that, you want to hear it from a criticalist. We are committed to giving each case every option regardless of the initial prognosis. We are committed to discussing all of the options, treatment plans and potential outcomes for your pet. We are commonly involved in the initial therapy for shock, polytrauma, cardiac emergencies, respiratory failure/distress as well as initial stabilization or post-operative management to name only a few.
…But it’s so unpredictable
The unpredictability is what draws this type of clinician to this specific specialty. There is a wide variety between the day-to-day pace as well as the type of cases that may present to the hospital, seeing as every patient is never the same as the one before. Criticalists thrive on this nature and enjoy not knowing what comes next. They are quick on their feet and good under pressure. To a lot of people, this type of chaos is distracting and full of anxiety, but they see calm in this type of storm.
MVMC is also proud to be a Level I VECCS certified hospital, which means that we have fulfilled the intensive criteria outlined by the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society for excellence in emergency and critical care.
Maine Veterinary Medical Center has three criticalists to provide support to the hospital as well as the ER and ICU. Meghan E Vaught DVM, DACVECC, Kimberly Oparil DVM, DACVECC and Amy Bell DVM DACVECC provide 7-day a week critical care coverage for this hospital either in person, or by phone. They are excited to help MVMC improve patient and client care, as well as bring in some of the newest and best treatment options for our patients.