Why I Am Consulting & Blogging Less

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!) I owe you all an explanation.

The truth is that it’s both part of a longer process, and not as big a change as it might appear. First though, 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. 

In normal weeks my appointments for all animals are down to Monday and Friday mornings, which tend to book out a few weeks in advance. I’m also consulting on Saturdays, but in order to maximise clinic space on our busiest day these are only for animals who can be seen in the cat room (i.e. not dogs sorry).

There will also regularly be times when I’m available for extra appointments as I cover our other vets on holiday. This should happen a lot more post-COVID. These times can be seen a month in advance on our online booking portal.

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 no hard feelings for 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’ve made is to be more available, not less. 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 in fact directly 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 simultaneously consulting
  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 a problem all 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.

After trying several failed strategies, I realised that I just couldn’t be regularly available any more, and that we needed geographical limits for new clients. Today I still get a few of these cases, but they are now rare enough to be manageable.

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 planning those ‘I’ll do that one day’ dreams. The first is to walk New Zealand’s Te Araroa while I still can. The 3000km trail might take 5 months, and if things go to plan I’ll set off in December. 

While I’m gone I’ll stay in regular contact with the clinic. I’d love you to stay in touch with me too and follow my progress. Once I set off I’ll be posting daily trail updates on a new Instagram page and your comments will liven up the trip!

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 are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia.

Andrew

16 Replies to “Why I Am Consulting & Blogging Less”

  1. Hi Andrew,
    I particularly enjoyed reading this blog post – the world seems to be increasingly demanding, and people are burning out trying to do everything. I’m so glad that you have not only reflected on your practise and prioritised work/life balance, but also shared it on the blog. I hope others are encouraged to stop and think, and make the same decisions! Focusing and prioritising your time will I’m sure result in not only looking after your own health (very important!) but also the continued high quality of the vet services at Walkerville.

    Also will add that I really appreciate the consistency and team/cooperative problem solving of the vets at Walkerville, it is so much easier to understand diagnoses/treatments when you aren’t receiving conflicting info! And comes with the little bonus of having more appointment options (date/time/etc)!

    Have a great time in NZ!

    1. Thanks Emma. Thanks for the support. Moby is a good example of the benefits of getting to know most of the vets in the clinic!

  2. We are not in Adelaide but I have subscribed to your blog/newsletter and enjoyed reading them and learnt a lot. Looking back on 2020-21 when our old cat died and we adopted 3 kittens over next 6 months, we ended up leaving our vets we had gone to for 20y and signing on with a new vet practice. Our main reason was the inability to get an appointment with the senior vet with whom we had enjoyed a long and good relationship and on whose care and expertise we had come to rely. The senior vets were no longer doing consults – we were advised of this in an informal manner by a comment from a vet nurse while booking some treatment. No reason was given, no formal advice was provided to long standing and regular clients. We felt cast adrift. After another few months where two younger vets did look after us well (but both left) we researched another practice and transferred our cats. We’ve not met the owner of the new practice, but we are very happy that the vet we can see takes a special interest in cats, and we are able to get in to see her most of the time, and we are assured by her expertise and knowledge. Our final straw at the previous practice was after xray and examination on one cat’s rear leg by the senior vet, they were not available to talk to us about the outcome and deputed a young new vet to explain. Their explanation of our cat’s results and prognosis ended with the joyful news that she might well have to have her leg amputated. No discussion of how to treat or manage the condition. I think if our practice had given clients a formal (written) advice of ceasing to do consults, an explanation of why they were taking that approach, and how consults and treatments would be handled going forward. this might have stayed our move. I sense you have communicated your approach to your clients and unlike us they probably do not feel “cast out” and are happy to continue to attend your practice with the new regime. At least, you still do some consults. I realise from what you have written in the past that it is a very demanding profession and there is a shortage of vets in Australia all of which does not help the situation. I’ve found your explanation helpful. All the best for your future plans.

  3. Dear Andrew,
    you are correct a 3000km walk might not be a good idea when you hit the 70th mark. You have to do these things now. We just hope that we might be lucky enough to enjoy your service occasionally when our Jette needs you. Thanks for the last 20+ years of your commitment to our pets. You will come back from New Zealand won’t you? It will be a great achievement.
    Ollie, Sabine & Jette

    1. Thanks Sabine and Ollie. I’m sure you’ll see me around the clinic and like I said I’m always helping out. And I think my wife might have something to say about it if I don’t come back from New Zealand!

  4. Thank you for your in-depth explanation as to what is going on etc etc. and what the future holds for you and the practice that you have worked so hard to build up over the years. I remember my first visit to see you when you were on the corner of Smith St and NE Road which was many many years ago now. My, my, you have come a long way since then.
    Life is too short to just work and no play so I wish you well in whatever you decide to undertake to stay “healthy”. You really do deserve it.

    1. Thanks Kareen. It’s great how many people like you have come along on the journey. Here’s to many happy years ahead.

    1. PS I started following your blog when I first moved to NZ from the UK and had to change the antihistamine that my dog took. I found your info very helpful. Thank you!

    2. Welcome back Andrew! Glad to see the transition you are doing, and have followed your Instagram. Looking forward to seeing the hiking updates. I’ll get to NZ before you, in Oct. The weather will be great for hiking in Dec. The portal is great by the way!

      1. Hi Beccy and Banana! I’m glad to hear the portal is working for you – have you put up a cool picture yet? Have a great time in New Zealand.

  5. Hi Andrew,
    It is very good to see you update blog and share your work and life plan. Hope you enjoy your 3000km walk in New Zealand. I am sure it gonna be a once in a life time experience and the days you are going to remember when you are old. I am looking forward to seeing your update in Ins.
    I deeply appreciate your years of hard work and keeping educate clients and public. I check your blog every time when my pets have any problem and always can find the most professional and accurate answer since we moved to Melbourne. I have to say your blog is much better than PetMed and other sources.
    Your team is amazing, other vets and nurses are all very professional and caring just like you. We used to make appointments with any vet available in your clinic.

    All the best to Walkerville Vet and your life,
    Wenxi, Tongtong, Kitty, Charli, Milo

  6. Thanks so much for the update Andrew – I thought I’d accidentally unsubscribed! Seriously though, your consideration in giving us these insights is very much appreciated. I lost my cat Mickey a bit over a year ago, but have recently adopted another rescue kitty, so will definitely be back when her vaccination is due! Cheers

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