PETS & VETS: The changing face of veterinary practice

With Michael Morrow from St Vincents Veterinary Practice

It is not unexpected in any profession for things to evolve, sometimes in response to market forces and sometimes as a result of changes in legislation or opportunities.

When I first started out as a vet it was common for a young vet to work their way up in a practice over several years with a view to being offered a partnership and possibly eventually ownership.

It was also far less common to refer animals to specialist centres, so most of us were happy to take on surgical and medical cases that these days would almost always be referred.

One of the changes that I personally feel significantly changed the face of veterinary services in the UK was when, in 2005, the law was changed allowing any individual or company to own a veterinary practice as long as they employed registered veterinary surgeons to do the actual veterinary work.

Prior to this to own a practice in the UK you had to be a registered as a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons – MRCVS for short.

While this may seem fairly innocuous to the reader, it opened the door to corporate ownership and sounded the death knell in almost all cases of the natural progression of veterinary assistant to partner to owner. Business models not dissimilar to those seen in the world of opticians flourished, and buy outs of existing independent practice became the norm.

Those of you who know me will know that I am somewhat idealistic, and haven’t yet shelved my idea of how to run an independent and caring practice in the midst of all these changes.

As I couldn’t see a way to buy into the practices I had worked at previously I started out on my own, opening St Vincents Vets in 2005.

The struggle of being a truly independent practice has been worth it, especially with the comments and thanks we have received from our clients over the years.

I try to encourage my younger vets to remember why they became a vet, and invest the personal care and compassion an owner would expect from their vet.

Almost all the vets I’ve worked with are remarkable individuals, excellent clinicians and caring souls, and I think it is important to remember the value of communication, compassion and empathy when dealing with cases. The rewards of this bond with patient and owner is immeasurable.

I also like to share my knowledge, tips and practical experience gained over years, with work experience school children, trainee nurses as well as teaching veterinary students on their EMS (Extra Mural Study) rotations.

I focus on decision making, trying new things and being accountable to both the patient and the owner.

But I also remind them all that the sense of purpose and well-being from being part of our extended family goes beyond the medical – a thought prompted when I recently reviewed some of the many photos staff have of me with patients taken over the years.

A combination of challenging cases and affectionate pets never fails to remind me of our value to our local community of pet owners and why I joined the profession in the first place.

Nancy and Michael Morrow own and run St Vincents Veterinary Surgery, an independent family owned practice providing personal care to pets in and around Wokingham since June 2005.

Should you have any questions about your pet’s health or any other veterinary issues please contact the practice on 0118 979 3200.

Phil Creighton

Editor of The Wokingham Paper, and has worked in local journalism for more than 20 years including the Wokingham Times, Bracknell Standard and Reading Evening Post. He's also written for computer magazines, The Baptist Times and, to his delight and probably not yours, interviewed several Doctor Whos.

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