Thursday, 3 September 2009

The busy in business

It feels strange, indeed possibly downright rude, to be complaining about how busy we are at the practice given the global economic situation at the moment

(which, while we're on the subject, I'm heartily sick of being blamed for. The next time some smug newsreader tells me that its 'everybodys fault' that we're in this crisis when I don't even own a credit card, I'm going to throw my telly out of the window. (Don't worry, I'll get the next one on hire purchase))

...but man, we're busy. I mean don't get a chance to stop and phone people with lab results/come up with new plans for long-term cases/wonder whether you've just given the right injection/go for a pee kind of busy.

I've held off posting this for a while (partially because I've been to busy ha ha) but partially because it's stupid. Lots of people aren't lucky enough to be in work at the moment, and becuase I work in a business, the busier we are, the better we're doing, right?

My problem is I find it hard to see the connection between the amount of people I see, and my wages.

(Unlike most clients. I say this with sympathy - many of the people reading this blog will have spent ten minutes in a vets consulting room and then been in need of resucitation equipment when the invoice comes through. I can understand that. One thing I've learned over the years is that it always looks like someone is making more money than they actually are. Of that forty quid that you fork out for ten minutes with your friendly neighbourhood vet, about forty pence goes on paying their salary. The rest goes the nurses salary, the receptionists, the practice managers, the gardeners, the rent of the building, the phone and electricity, the syringes, the needles, the disposal of sharps bins, the ordering of drugs, and many other administrative charges that I won't bore you with further. But bear in mind there are two sides to every story.)

The work in the last few weeks has been relentless - unstoppable, like a time-travelling super-cyborg sent from the future, and about as damaging to my health and well being. The last weekend I worked on call, I was called out sixteen times on Saturday alone.

(a personal record! Call outs can range from lasting twnty minutes to two hours, and these calls ran the full gamut, including a call to put the dog belonging to an elderly lady to sleep. As I examined the dog, lying in it's own mess and no longer strong enough to howl in the pain from it's severe arthritis, trying to be polite about the fact that it had been like this for over a week, the lady told me that if I killed her dog she would then kill herself and all her other animals after I left. That was a fun one.)

It's been so busy that if you come in with your animal tomorrow and say to me 'Well, he's just not right. I don't really know what's wrong.' then I may well burst into tears on the spot. Pleasse ignore me if I begin beating the ground in frustration and misery, and politely turn away when I start howling 'Why, God? Whhhyy?' at the ceiling of my consulting room.

Thing is, I know I shouldn't be moaning. I'd be a hell of a lot more depressed if the practice went bankrupt and I was out of a job. The credit crunch has affected us a little - we're still busy, but there's a marked increase in the people who aren't paying their bills

(and despite my urgings, the practice probably won't go with the 'Do not ask for credit as having your animal taken off you and euthanased sometimes offends' sign above reception. Seriously, why do people take advantage of us especially? Try telling the lady at ASDA that you have forgotten your purse, and that you'll pay next week when your benefits cheque clears, and you'll be leaving the shop a hungry person.)

...but I find it hard to connect the horrible, vaguely organised chaos of another day where my brains feel like they have been put through a tumble drier, with the notion that the practice is doing 'well'. It has reduced better vets than me to tears. It has, on occasion, reduced me to tears.

So, what is this rambling blog about? It's about the fact that we are a business, not a public service, and we are in the unfortunate position of making money out of pain, and suffering. The bad side to this is that, however much we'd like not to, we care.

As vets, I think it's fair to say only a very few if any of us joined this profession to get rich, and as such we get very uncomfortable and awkward about asking for your money, in a way that a car mechanic is never going to, and behind the scences there's an awful lot of undercharging goes on because we either don't feel we're worth it, or we feel sympathy for your animal's condition, or we underquoted because it was too hectic to do a proper quote. We're never going to turn away an animal in distress because the owner cn't pay the bill, because we can't bear the thought of it. Yes, we're easy targets.

The plus side, if it can be called that, is that in the world we live in, there is a near-endless supply of pain and misery. There's certainly a lot of it about where I work.

So, perhaps you can see why I find the busyness of the business deeply conflicting. It leads to tired staff, stressed vets, bad decisions and poor client service, and it means more animals are suffering.

It means the practice is doing well.

I wonder if it's not too late for a career change?

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