Interview with Bark Magazine

What does R.E.A.C.H. stand for and how did it get started?
R.E.A.C.H. of Asheville stands for Regional Emergency Animal Care Hospital. It was formed by a group of local veterinarians to provide after hours care for their clients with pet emergencies.

Is R.E.A.C.H. different from other hospitals in Asheville?
R.E.A.C.H. works with the other veterinary hospitals to provide continuous around the clock care for all pets in Western North Carolina. We are an extension of the referring veterinarians service and we communicate all of our findings, test results and treatment to the family veterinarian for continued care. R.E.A.C.H. is also different in that we do not provide preventive or routine care such as dental cleaning, spay and neuters. It is most appropriate to have your family veterinarian provide those services. Our doctors and staff focus their training specifically on emergency care.

What if I do not have a family veterinarian?
You do not have to be referred to us, just give us a call if the need arises or with questions. We can recommend a veterinarian close to you if follow-up care is needed.

What types of emergencies do you see?
We see many, many types of emergencies from minor to very severe. A few examples are trauma cases such as hit by car, animal attacks, heart failure, cancer, gastric dilation and torsion (bloat), poisoning, allergies, drug reactions, vomiting, diarrhea, and many more. Our hospital has to be prepared to handle any type of emergency with the appropriate equipment and staff at all times of the night, weekends and holidays.

This job seems to have long hours and potentially stressful situations. Why do you choose to do emergency work?
Yes, sometimes it is quite stressful. Clients are often very emotional about their pet, sometimes even making treatment more difficult. For me, knowing that I was able to help an animal that was sure to die if we had not been here and been prepared. Knowing this and having a client call weeks or sometimes years later to thank you again for saving their loved one. That is what it is all about.

What is the work environment like?
There are a lot of highs and lows, and you have to be the type of person who can handle both. Sometimes we are very busy, other times it is extremely slow. Very busy sometimes means very stressful. We have fun as well, which helps people deal with the stressful times.  The people at R.E.A.C.H. are a diverse group of varying ages and walks of life, but their common trait is that they are all amazingly compassionate people. It is great to constantly be surrounded by such compassionate coworkers.

What do you dislike most about emergency work?
Having to make treatment decisions based on financial limitations. Sometimes we have to choose what is the single most important thing to do rather than what is most thorough or medically sound. It is an unfortunate fact of life. Some people are forced to make these decisions in all areas of their life, including their own health care. People do what they can, we help out and sometimes other clients even pitch in.

I thought you would say euthanizing pets would be the most disliked part of job?
It is by no means something I look forward to. However, I do feel fortunate that when it is the right decision, we have the ability to allow our loved one to gently and painlessly pass on. We get so many thank you letters from clients who we helped in these situations that are grateful for what we did for them and how we did it. People really do appreciate it.

How has R.E.A.C.H. changed over the years?
Each year the quality of service to the public has improved. Each new staff member goes through a training program at R.E.A.C.H. regardless of their prior experience. This has greatly improved patient care. There has also been a greater emphasis on managing pain, as there has been in our profession in general. As a profession we are better at recognizing and treating pain in our companions that do not always clearly tell us when they hurt. The single biggest change was a change in ownership last year.

How will a change in ownership affect R.E.A.C.H. and the community?
There will be and have been so far, great strides in improving patient care and keeping pace with technological advances in veterinary medicine. Our goal is not to provide a service, it is to provide an excellent service. We want the family veterinarian to be proud to refer their emergencies to us and we want the pets to receive the very best care they can. It is not uncommon to have someone from a larger city visit our hospital and be amazed that we have such a facility in Asheville. We do have a wonderful thing here, and there is a lot still to do to keep pace with our rapidly changing profession.