I feel sure you guys are getting tired of hearing about the struggle we are facing by being short staffed with veterinarians. Trust me, probably not as tried as I am of being short on veterinarians. I speak for all of us at Bear Creek when I say that we all agree with you that things need to change.

We are still searching for new veterinarians to join our team. There truly is a shortage of veterinary staff across the country. Fewer people are staying in the profession and those that are in the profession and sticking it out are not really moving around very much. For the past two years we have been at a serious disadvantage when it comes to handling the demand our beloved clients are putting on us.

People often comment to me that our level of busy is a good problem to have. I must disagree. I hate feeling like I am letting people down despite the long hours and hard work. I have held on as long as I can to the current schedule and hospital hours, but I fear my current staff and doctors are at the end of their ropes and will not be with me much longer if I do not cut us all some slack. This leads me to the changes I feel I have really have no choice but to make….again.

To put things into perspective, our doctors, including myself, are working between 50-60hrs a week. Every week. Our days are usually 12hrs long and that does not include any additional time we spend on the phone or on the computer responding to questions, checking up on patients, or entering medical records. It also does not include the amount of time I spend on administration duties to keep the clinic moving forward and making sure my staff have what they need to do their jobs. The challenge to reducing our weekly hours to a more manageable and more sustainable level is how not reduce the number of people we can see in a day or increase the number of clients that are turned away because we simply cannot fit them in. My management team and I have been working on this problem for several months and have tried multiple configurations. We can make it work, but we simply do not have the support staff or the doctors to do this without changing the overall hours of operation of the clinic. I have resisted this change for years. I hate changing the hours of operation. If it were up to me and we had unlimited staff and doctors, I would have the clinic open 24 hours a day. Alas, that is not the reality at this time. Maybe one day, but until that day, here are the changes we are undertaking.

Starting December 1, 2021, we will NOT be open on Saturdays any longer. Our hours of operation will be:

Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm.

These changes will be in effect until we can find additional veterinary staff to bring us back up to capacity.

To fit more into a shorter time frame, I will be concentrating our support staff into teams to make our doctors more efficient and reducing the time slots for each appointment thus allowing us to see more patients during the time our doctors are at the clinic. We will be able to add more “same day sick” appointment time slots to the day and effectively not reduce the overall number of patients seen in a day’s time or through the week. I realize that it will create a hardship for those that really need the convenience of Saturday hours or early/late drop off and pick up times, but by spreading out the support staff, I am unable to adequately provide my doctors with enough assistance to keep from turning away more patients. I hope to alleviate the strain on everyone at the clinic so we can still be present for you and your pets for a long time to come. Without my wonderful staff, there would be no Bear Creek. We will continue to work hard for you and your pets.

You will notice some changes if you are dropping patients off for surgery or for “drop off” appointments when it comes to release forms. We are hoping to reduce wasted time playing phone tag or waiting on a call back to discuss simple clarification information. We will be using email as much as possible for basic communication to answer questions and handle prescription requests. Other than that, things are pretty much the same. We are trying to meet as much demand as we can by eliminating wasted time, but not time spent with the patient or on actual care.

It is our unwavering commitment to treat every case that comes before us with serious regard to uncompromising compassion and the best medicine allowed each and every time. We refuse to water down our services and focus solely on numbers and push ourselves to the brink of mistakes and bad decisions. This may mean that we face the verbal wrath and cancel culture of those that feel we let them down by not being able to see their pet when they felt they needed to be seen. We understand and accept that we cannot see and help everyone all the time. We do not like it, but we must accept it and move on so that we can help others.

Parting thoughts:

My commitment is first to myself. I need to sleep at night. My conscience must be clear in that at the end of the day, I have done right by those in my care (whether they be two legged or four legged). I have done the best job I can do with the resources available to me and I have brought to bear all my talents and strength for a favorable outcome.

Second, my commitment is to my family. I need to be there for them. I need to be present in their lives and support them as they support me.

Next, my commitment is to my employees. They depend on me to provide for them and give them the opportunity to work in a hospital they can be proud of. They trust me to have their backs and make decisions that do not tread on their ethics or morals.

After that, my commitment is to my clients and community. Each client is equally important to me. It does not matter how far from the clinic you live or how much money you spend. I am just as committed to your pet if you spend $300 vs $3000; if you live 1 mile down the road or 10.

There are some patients that steal parts of my heart and take it with them when they part this world. There are some clients that I have formed bonds with that blur the lines between client and friend. That is honestly why I am in this profession. I ran into a client the other day at the grocery store that I had not seen in years. Her lovely companion golden retriever passed away of lymphoma several years back and she has no other pets. However, I had not seen her at the usual run-in spots. That day I did. I was so happy to see her. We talked in the produce aisle for probably 20 minutes but that was the best 20min of my day. We caught up on all that had been going on in her life and how we both missed her dog so much. I really wanted to hug her but with Covid and all I did not ask, but she asked, and I gladly said yes. There is another client that I have that was my very first client when I opened Bear Creek as a mobile large animal service. I do not see her large animals anymore, but she brings me her dogs. She lives in Midland and drives all the way to Millingport to bring me her dogs. She has to drive past three or four clinics to get to me and has at least 5 or 6 clinics that are more convenient to her location, but she brings them to me. I will never forget driving down her driveway to the barn that very first morning in April of 2006. It is forever in my brain. I can see it like it was yesterday, maybe even better than yesterday. I remember how nervous I was. I remember telling myself how silly it was for me to be nervous. It was just horse vaccines, and I was not a new grad. I was an experienced veterinarian, and I knew what to do. Funny how far removed I am from that first farm call to now. No staff and a truck to this hospital and 30 staff members. One client to thousands. At times it seems so long ago but in truth it has only been 15 yrs. A blip in time. A lot of changes have occurred in that 15yrs. More changes will happen. It is inevitable. I will stive to keep those changes for the positive as long as I am at the helm.

Well that about wraps it up. I hope you read this and understand the work and effort that has been put into this decision and that we understand the ripple effects and waves that decisions like this can make. We are still here for you and want to be for a long time to come.