Dr. Kim Buck is accustomed to many shifts as a co-owner and the only full-time veterinarian at a small emergency hospital in San Antonio, Texas. But she reached her limit in June. She was working her fifth shift of the week, after 24 hours the day before, when nine animals were received in two hours. Some of them were very sick.
Veterinarians are the healers of the animal world shirt, hoodie, tank top, sweater
“My blood pressure is skyrocketing,” Buck told VIN News Service. “My breasts are starting to feel bad.” Her breathing gradually shortened. Her assistant called an ambulance. Buck spent three nights in the hospital and was diagnosed with pleurisy.
“We’ll have to close the clinic door,” Buck recalls thinking. Even when she was afraid of having a heart attack, she still wondered about arranging staff to train her. Hiring and retaining ER practitioners has been a constant challenge for Buck since she and another veterinarian bought the hospital six years ago.
During the time of fearing her health, the hospital was not closed. Her work is undertaken by part-time and relief veterinarians. Since she returned to work, she is working harder to hire another practitioner so that she can avoid an inferiority complex. This new urgency comes at a time when finding an emergency veterinarian is especially difficult.
VIN News Service interviewed 11 emergency veterinarians – some owners – representatives of two major hospital chains and two recruiters. They all describe the situation as a “severe”, “urgent” and “crisis” level of staff shortages.
Help wants, wants and wants
Emergency doctors told VIN News that they were drawn into this field by the opportunity to treat a variety of diseases and hone their diverse skills in all careers. (All veterinarians practice emergency medical – have board certification and otherwise – can be called emergency veterinarians. Emergency veterinarians are board-certified Critical physician or care specialist.) Some reported that salaries tend to be higher than general practitioners, an attraction but not an important factor. Another perk for some: dense, intense schedules allow extended breaks.
However, the arrangement of staff to work night shifts, holidays, and weekends is not easy. One practitioner called these hours “long and odd.” Urgent work can be risky and stressful, and relationships with clients can become stressful. Emergency veterinarians often come into contact with stressed owners for the first time, sometimes offering costly interventions without a trust relationship established to attract. These situations often intimidate young, inexperienced, and seasoned veterinarians.
As many households across the Veterinarians are the healers of the animal world shirt country prepare to return to their pre-pandemic schedule, the only family member who doesn’t want the country back to normal is pets. Already accustomed to around-the-clock interactions with the owner in COVID-19, veterinarians are deeply concerned that dogs will suffer from severe distress as the pet’s parents continue to work outside the home.