Where did all the vets go? A question many owners are asking themselves as they struggle to secure an appointment for their dog’s itchy ear or their cat’s yearly boosters…
With the surge in new pet ownership seen throughout the pandemic, pet parents may have noticed how challenging it has become to get vet appointments, vaccinations, or even a practice that will take on new clients! A few years ago the concept of being turned down to register at a practice was practically unheard of, but phone calls along the lines of ‘are you taking on new clients, can I register my kitten with you’ have become increasingly common as practices have struggled to support our new pet population.
The increase in pet ownership is probably one of the few good things to have come out of the pandemic. Now that working from home is more commonplace, people who always dreamt of having a pet but couldn’t due to work have been able to realise that dream and reap all the wonderful benefits of the companionship of a furry friend.
While breeders (and puppy farmers) have been able to rear more pets for people, the veterinary profession has struggled to keep up with the massively increased demand for veterinary care. It takes 5-6 years to train a vet and 3+ years to train a registered veterinary nurse, and unfortunately the profession was short staffed before the pandemic even began!
The pressure on vets prior to the pandemic caused a big ‘leaky bucket’ problem with many vets leaving the profession and finding other work for various reasons. These reasons mainly centred around poor work-life balance: Lunch breaks constantly missed, unpaid overtime adding up to hours each week, high frequency of out of hours duties (when a vet is on call all night and weekend) on top of daytime work, and a high pressure working environment - because we understand how important it is that we get your fur baby back to full health.
The pressure of the last 2 years from the pandemic has been the straw that broke the camel’s back for many vets as they rush to work through the backlog from lockdowns, cope with staff absences, and the increased amount of time it took to get things done while seeing patients outside.
Short staffing has now become a widespread problem throughout the country and is affecting most vet practices. Vets and nurses rushed off their feet all day has meant many practices have had to close their books to new clients in order to protect their staff and quality of patient care.
Dr. Kate Bleasdale MRCVS, one of the directors and vets at Nirvana Vets suggests: “Always check before welcoming a new furry friend into your home that you are able to secure a spot on a vet practice’s client list. Please be kind to your vets - especially on our busy days - we love your pets with all our heart and caring for them is the reason we get up in the morning.”