Vet Emma Donnelly BSc (Hons) BVMS DECVECC MRCVS European Diplomate in Emergency & Critical Care is part of the team at Vets Now’s Glasgow Hospital. Emma is delivering six lectures at the Vets Now Emergency and Critical Care Congress, which will take place at The Royal Armoury in Leeds on November 3 and 4. The Congress, which has up to 80 hours of CPD, is back in person after two years of virtual events.


Tell us about your veterinary background.

I always wanted to study veterinary medicine and never had a plan B. I was lucky enough to get into Glasgow University straight from school, graduating in 2013. I applied for an internship at Vets Now Glasgow, thinking I’d get a year of additional experience – but I loved the hospital and never left! I did my rotating internship and that’s when I really started to enjoy emergency work, both with the OOH team overnight and the ECC referrals team during the day. I then did a three-year residency in Small Animal ECC before moving to the Manchester Hospital as an ECC clinician for two years. But the lure of coming home was strong, and when a chance to move back to the Glasgow Hospital came in 2020, I had to take it.


What’s the appeal of ECC?

It’s the combination of the emergency and the critical care side.

You have the adrenaline rush of a patient coming in and all working together as a team to stabilise them and doing something immediately to help.

Emma Donnelly

It’s all very fast paced and, so long as it isn’t too stressful, it can be an exciting and rewarding environment. But the other part is the critically ill patients in our ICU. Monitoring them, paying attention to all the small details, tweaking their plan, and working with the nursing team to get the best outcome. You can be with those patients over several days, so you really get to know them and their families.


The first session of your busy Congress is HIIBT – Hypotension, with Simon Hagley and Daniel Lewis (Nov 3 09.30)

This is like our version of HIIT interval training. Dan and I did a similar style of session on clotting a couple of years ago with Neus Elias Santo-Domingo and it was fast and fun. Because there are three of us, delegates will hopefully get more than one opinion on how to treat hypotension to help stimulate discussion. It will be quite in-depth, looking at how blood pressure is controlled, how to recognise hypotension and possible ways to resolve the situation. We’ll each share our experiences and opinions as to why we do things a certain way. I’d hope one of the main takeaways would be the importance of measuring blood pressure and interpreting heart rate alongside it – taking everything back to basics really helps us decide how best to treat hypotension.

Emma Donnelly at Vets Now Hospital in Glasgow

Then you have Emergency Use of Blood Products (Nov 3 11.15)

My plan is to talk about the use of blood products in emergency patients and the different options available in the UK. So, that’ll be packed red blood cells, whole blood from donor patients, and plasma products, both frozen and fresh-frozen. I’ll go through the benefits of each and when you’d use one instead of another, as well as how to administer the products and monitor for transfusion reactions. I’ll also talk about when we may want to be early in our use of blood products, such as treating trauma patients.


Your next session is Intern, Specialist or Baker, with David Owen and Gayle Hallowell (Nov 3 14.15)

I think this is such a fun title. The plan is for the three of us to talk about our individual career paths and what led us there. In veterinary medicine, people go off and do many different things, go into various avenues of the profession or even pursue things completely unrelated to their degree. So, we’ll look at what prompted us to make the decisions we did and whether we’d change them if we could go back. There’s no right or wrong way, it’s only what’s right for you.


Then POCUS – The Chest rounds off your sessions for the day (Nov 3 15.45)

The use of Point-of-Care Ultrasound scan, or POCUS, has been increasing year on year. Once I’ve done my initial physical examination, the next thing in my hand is almost always an ultrasound probe. I’ll be talking about how to use it in a variety of cases, including how useful it can be when deciding between heart and lung disease in patients that come in with respiratory distress. Also, in assessing trauma patients, looking for bruising in the lungs or diaphragmatic hernias. The aim of the session is to encourage anyone who isn’t using ultrasound as part of their assessment of emergency patients to try it. You can very quickly pick up the skills you need for emergency POCUS.


On to Nov 4 – at 08.30 it’s HIIBT Pathophysiology of Sepsis (a Primer), with Sophie Adamantos and Daniel Lewis.

This is another HIIT session. It will be a look at the theoretical side of sepsis and the human guidelines and literature, but we would hope to take the theory and make that applicable to the patient in front of you.


And your final session of Congress is Supporting the Critical Gut (Nov 4 14.00)

My plan here is to touch on how we feed our patients. Of course, there are times when we cannot use the gut and may need to consider total parenteral nutrition and we’ll briefly touch on this.  Overall, we’ll focus on why using enteral nutrition is the better method of feeding and why we should use it if at all possible. I’ll go through the different types of feeding tubes available and when each is indicated. Then, I’ll talk about the types of liquid diets and how to safely introduce nutrition to a patient who has been anorexic for several days.


Finally, what are you most looking forward to about the Congress being back face-to-face?

It’s got to be just being able to see people again, having discussion during lectures and people being able to shout out questions. When you’re just talking to a screen, you don’t know if people are enjoying it. The two-way interaction adds so much, and you can even learn yourself from what someone is able to tell you. It’ll be lovely to be back lecturing in person.


You can book tickets for ECC Congress 2022 here. Tickets are selling fast with a limited supply left.