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Risk of burnout continues to challenge Cariboo veterinarians

100 Mile House vet shuts down after-hour urgent care calls in 100 Mile clinic
Dr. Doug Magnowski of Animal Care Hospital of Williams Lake spaying a cat (ovariohysterectomy) with the help of veterinarian technician Zoe Norquay. Jan. 2023. (Kim Kimberlin / Williams Lake Tribune)

A Cariboo-based veterinary clinic is reducing its overnight on-call emergency services due to vet burnout, according to a statement put out on social media

Lakeland Veterinary Clinic in 100 Mile House announced on Jan. 7 that, effective immediately, on-call emergency hours will not be offered between 11 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

The clinic currently has three veterinarians who can respond to urgent calls. Still, as they have to work the following day, overnight emergencies have become increasingly difficult, as noted in their Facebook statement.

According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, 30.5 per cent of veterinarians feel burnout, with 50 per cent of veterinary staff feeling the same. Twenty-nine per cent of veterinary technicians said they would likely leave their practice in the next two years.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association states burnout as an “unintentional end point” for those experiencing chronic stress in their work environment. Signs of burnout include feelings of hopelessness, exhaustion, alienation from job-related activities and reduced performance.

Dr. Doug Magnowski from the Animal Care Hospital of Williams Lake said that veterinarian burnout is not just isolated to 100 Mile House, and it’s a similar issue in the human medical world regarding doctor and nurse shortages.

Last year the province committed to doubling the number of subsidized seats for B.C. veterinary students attending the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) at the University of Saskatchewan, from 20 to 40. While this helps bring more veterinarians to the province, Magnowski said the issue is that these seats won’t produce veterinarian graduates for another four to five years, and current veterinarians are aging out.

Another strain veterinarians deal with is the emotional toll of being unable to help every animal due to cost. In B.C., people have access to their Medical Services Plan; however, when it comes to pets, owners don’t always have the financial means to pay for treatment, said Magnowski.

For the Animal Care Hospital, which has locations in Williams Lake and Quesnel, Magnowski said Williams Lake is very fortunate to have dedicated veterinarians that consistently provide 24-7 urgent care.

“Doing this for 36, coming up on 37 years, that is a founding principle of what I believe in as a veterinarian, is that we make that commitment. Our core veterinarians fully believe that as well.”

Magnowski began his career in Williams Lake in 1987. In 1995, he and his wife, Candice, established their own veterinary company which evolved into the Animal Care Hospital Of Williams Lake in 2000, then expanded to include the Animal Care Hospital of Quesnel in 2001.

Some of the ways Magnowski’s team has been able to provide 24-7 urgent care and reduce burnout is through succession planning, recruitment and a new answering service.

In June of 2022, Animal Care Hospital welcomed Dr. Don Deitrick and in June of 2023, Dr. Morgan Johnston and Dr. Kaitlyn Wurzer joined the team.

Animal Care Hospital receives approximately 450 urgent calls a month, not all of which are emergencies. When people call the hospital after hours, they are given the option to call the urgent care line, which costs $19 a call. These calls are sent to the new answering service; a group of registered veterinary technicians based out of Calgary that can triage calls and decide whether a veterinarian needs to be called. This prevents veterinarians from being woken up in the middle of the night from calls that aren’t urgent, said Magnowski.

However, as being on-call is part of being a veterinarian, the job simply does cut into personal time, though Magnowski described himself as more “old-fashion,” and doesn’t know any different.

“I love my job, I do what I do … The job definitely has its challenges, but I’m still very enthusiastic and dedicated to providing the best level of veterinarian care.”

Magnowski acknowledged the cost of an urgent care call, but said it’s part of what allows the hospital to continue providing urgent care services. Newer veterinarians are also put on call with senior veterinarians, allowing them to become familiar with urgent care calls so they don’t feel stranded or alone, said Magnowski, hopefully allowing them to stay in the profession for 30-40 years.

A similar situation to Lakeland Veterinary Clinic happened in Prince George in 2022 when after-hours urgent care services were closed in the only clinic in northern B.C.

Black Press reached out to Lakeland Veterinary Clinic for comment but did not hear back by press time.

READ MORE: New therapy dogs ready to work in 100 Mile

READ MORE: Many veterinarians in Canada are facing extreme burnout

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Kim Kimberlin, Local Journalism Initiative

About the Author: Kim Kimberlin, Local Journalism Initiative

I joined Black Press Media in 2022, and have a passion for covering topics on women’s rights, 2SLGBTQIA+ and racial issues, mental health and the arts.
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