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Why It’s Hard To Get A Dr Andrew Appointment

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Why It’s Hard To Get A Dr Andrew Appointment

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Updated May 11, 2023

Many of you will have noticed that my personal work schedule has changed in 2022. It’s a lot harder to see me, and there haven’t been any blogs (except this one!) The truth is that it’s both part of a longer process, and not as big a change as it might appear.

First, let’s talk about the biggest effect it’s had on clients. 

Help! I Can’t Get An Appointment With Andrew

Like most longstanding vets, I’ve developed close working relationships which I enjoy with many people. The hardest part of the changes is that it’s now a lot more difficult for them to see me. 

From August I have only been available for emergency appointments or when I covered our other vets on holiday. As of December, 2022 I’m on a bucket list trip to New Zealand and won’t be back until April (read more about this below).

I understand that for a lot of people this is not going to be enough, and I expect that for many it will result in one of two outcomes:

  1. Developing a closer relationship with the other vets in the clinic
  2. Seeking the advice of vets at other clinics

Now obviously the first response is the one we all hope for. But there will be people who prefer the other option. But with all my respect, I hope to persuade you that this is the less logical response!

Bear with me. This is a very long story of how the world is changing both for me and for vets in general.  

The Future Of Veterinary Care

The veterinary industry has always been known for the way it is built around individual personalities. Of course, this is true everywhere, but the way vets work more independently tends to magnify its effect. Pet owners quite naturally prefer to get to know their vet and develop a close relationship. I fully support this up to a point. 

The problem is that in 2022 no-one has all the answers any more. No longer can a single person adequately cover the continually increasing standards in medicine, surgery, dentistry, medical imaging, psychology and the rest. All of these have advanced to the point where it’s very hard to be a generalist if you want to stay current. 

Putting all your faith in a single vet is inevitably going to come with losses. I know this because I work as hard as anyone to keep up to date and I still see too many deficiencies. 

The Reason We Moved

So you can start to see why I like many others have worked hard to grow the practice; it wasn’t just to have a new shiny facility. Much more important were the flow-on effects:

  • Being able to attract the best vets and nurses
  • Being able to offer up to date services 
  • Being big enough to have the staff to cover sickness and holidays without undue stress to the rest 

I’d like to believe that we’ve achieved all of these. Boring as they are, they made the difference between sustainability and decline. Never more so than during COVID. 

Finding The Vet You Want

By now I hope you can see why I think it’s a mistake to change vets if you can’t see a particular one. In the 2020s the best veterinary care comes from teams, not individuals. That’s why you’ll see the same changes happening everywhere. 

Unlike doctors, veterinary teams almost always adhere to practice policies on how clients and patients are best treated. It’s no different at Walkerville. Those policies are regularly reviewed and updated at staff meetings where changes are accepted by common consent. 

You won’t always notice the similarities until you step outside the practice. But inside the clinic, we strive for consistency because we broadly share the same values. We talk constantly about current cases and ask each others’ opinions. The younger vets know that there’s always a senior vet to call on for advice, and they never get left to do things they aren’t yet ready for. 

How I Fit In

In this area the only change I made was to be more available, not less. Outside of holidays I’m still here full time; consulting less so I can look after the clinic more. You’ll see me popping in to consultations at times to assist, troubleshooting when needed, and doing a lot more of the surgical procedures. 

But I hope you already know that the team I’m lucky to have doesn’t need a lot of oversight. That includes the nurses. You’ve probably noticed by now how much of a greater role they’re taking these days.

So my plea to you is this: if you like how I’ve done things, give the other vets a go. They may relate to you differently, but I can almost guarantee that you will find in them the same veterinary care you have come to rely upon up to now. 

The Reason I Changed

This leads to the question of why I made the changes to my workday.  The short answer is that things had got to the point where I needed to either get out completely or take control of my workload so that I could keep going. 

There are three reasons:

  1. The practice is now too big and complex to run efficiently without more input from me than I can provide while consulting full time
  2. I’m getting older and wanting to get on with that bucket list while I still can (more on this later)
  3. I had started to find consulting was causing me anxiety 

The last point is partly a problem partly of my own making. Working so long in Adelaide (plus the blogs) has given me an undeserved reputation as a miracle worker. That combined with the lack of sufficient specialists in Adelaide made me into an unwilling ‘subspecialist’. 

Like a vet of last resort, people were travelling from across Adelaide with animals that plenty of good vets had already done good work for. For most of these I could offer some additional help, but for a minority the problem was more about the owner’s lack of trust in vets than it was about their pet’s condition. 

You can only imagine how little fun these cases were to manage. They may have been only 5% of the total, but they were like a small bomb going off in any day that they appeared, and I could never predict when.

Treatment Of Vets

A second and less specific reason for the anxiety is the way vets are being treated by a small percentage of the public in the 2020’s. This is one of the big reasons you find vets leaving the profession and those that remain working fewer hours.

I have written about this problem before, but for me it has become intolerable. Even if only 1% of people behave in this way, they ruin a whole week every time they do. It seems they forget two things: vets are just trying to do their best under extremely difficult conditions, and vets are humans too.

The review above isn’t the only one like it, but it was the last straw. Without getting too defensive, it was written by people who brought their relative’s dog in for euthanasia with whom up to that point we had very minimal contact. Those who know us know we aren’t like this at all. From Ben’s point of view, it went peacefully and smoothly, and I was devastated to have this posted online where I was only trying to do my best.

Happier Reasons

On to more positive things, another reason I am also less available is because I’ve been volunteering one and a half days a week during term time at the University veterinary school. It’s an intensely satisfying experience to be helping our future vets.

The lack of blogs is also a more positive story. I always enjoyed them, but nowadays, when I’m talking to clients I don’t get that feeling of information missing that drove me to write. I might put out more if I find areas of interest to you, but the back catalogue already has most of what I want pet owners to know.

The third good thing is that at 53 I’m finally getting to those ‘I’ll do that one day’ dreams. The first is to walk New Zealand’s 3000km Te Araroa while I still can. I set off on the 13th of December on the trail and it might take me 4-5 months.

While I’m gone I’m staying in regular contact with the clinic. I’d love you to stay in touch with me too and follow my progress. When I have reception I’m posting daily photos and stories on a new Instagram page and your comments help liven up the trip! The link in the bio goes to a fundraising appeal for the people of Ukraine – please give if you can!

Thanks for making it to the end. I hope I’ve helped you understand how what I’m doing is maintaining our identity and securing our future, not making radical changes. I also hope to see you around the clinic soon. For something routine of course!

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

Andrew



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