Tag Archives: On call

On call… just part of the job or an unfair expectation

Work/life balance is a particularly hot topic at the moment both in the veterinary industry and in most other businesses with lots of articles being written about how to achieve that all important balance.

In our industry it is even more relevant given the out of hours service that vets have to provide. Twenty years ago it was widely accepted that being on call was just part of the job, vets signed up knowing it was a necessity and got on with it.

But with time comes innovation, small animal practices have developed dedicated out of hours providers who act as a central hub for emergency cases out of hours and vets now have more choice about the hours that they work.

Unfortunately because of the distances that equine practices cover, this isn’t a viable option which leaves us with a major problem long term, as more and more vets go in search of that all important work life balance and move back into small animals.

It’s a massive frustration for me knowing that as an industry, equine practices need to think outside the box to solve the problem, but are still unable to come up with a workable solution. Hugh and I have spent hours discussing the possibility of moving to a 7 day working week and implementing shift patterns to remove the extra weekend work for our team. The clients would benefit from having vets working at weekends and no out of hours fees but the extra costs to the practice would be astronomical. We would need a minimum of two extra vets, and an extra admin person and nurse, which makes it unaffordable for our clients.

To add to problem the demographics of the profession is changing with a survey by the BVA in 2016 reporting 81% of vet students are female. A survey by the RCVS in 2014 that found that the number of vets working part-time is continuing to rise. In addition we have equine vets who are working an average of 40.4 hours each week plus 32.6 hours on call per week in a profession where we know stress and working hours contribute to dissatisfaction with vet work, and are common reasons for people choosing to leave the profession (RCVS 2014).

As wife to a vet who works on call and with a young family I understand more than anyone the impact on call has on families, relationships and individuals. In contrast as the director of a business that has to provide on call to our clients I also feel frustrated and concerned with the way the profession is developing. Should the profession be better at managing students’ expectations of the commitment that is needed for on call? Someone has to do it and for every vet that decides to move away from out of hours work, someone else is left to cover.

Frustratingly I don’t have the answer but with a high proportion of woman entering the profession, many of whom will want to have families of their own and work part-time to fit in with family life, the problem isn’t going away… I would love to hear from you if you have the solution!
balance quote