Vets doing it tough

ANIMAL CARE: Gambier Vets veterinarian Rebel Skirving and clinic assistant Iggy both love being able to care for animals in the community despite the challenges that come with the job. Picture: Aidan Curtis.

Aidan Curtis

REGIONAL vets have been getting inundated in the wake of Covid, with the workload seeming to increase each year.

Gambier Vets veterinarian Rebel Skirving said the last two years especially have seen the workload go up.

“Regional vets have always been busy people, but we’ve certainly noticed the last two or three years, the workload has increased – both with farm animals and with companion animals,” Dr Skirving said.

“The other part of the equation is the workforce in the veterinary profession has decreased.

“There’s more animals needing attention and less vets to do the work, but it’s not just Mount Gambier or the South East, it’s right across Australia. ”

Dr Skirving said there is an “alarming” drop out rate for early career vets leaving the profession after five years on the job, which has put more strain on the remaining workforce.

She said a lot of research has been going into how to stem the losses and help retain vets to take some of the strain.

“There’s a lot of different reasons why people leave the profession – the long hours is probably one of the main things,” she said.

“It’s early starts, late finishes, on call weeknights and weekends – there’s a lot of demands on your time.”

She said the emotional toll of the job can be quite rough as well, especially for early career vets, but people can take small actions to help with that at a community level.

“For me personally, I think the real simple things like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ makes a big difference,” she said.

“We’re working very hard to cover all bases; having angry clients yelling at us doesn’t help anything.

“We’re not turning people away because we can’t be bothered, we’re having to prioritise cases because of the lack of resources.”

Despite the challenges, Dr Skirving said being a vet was a very rewarding career and she could not imagine doing anything else.

“I’m very blessed that I love what I do, I really enjoy being a vet,” she said.

“We work in a very genuinely mixed practice, we see reptiles, birds, wildlife, cattle, horses, dogs and cats – you never know what is going to come through the door.

“I love each day at work because it’s different – and we have some really lovely clients who are really pleased that we’re here to help them, so that keeps me going too.”