VET’S DIARY: Night work part and parcel of life

Nights on call are part of a vet’s life in a rural area. Many cities now have centres for out of hours work, but these are not suitable in an area like ours.

For some vets the idea of just working during the day appeals, but out of hours work can be challenging and also very rewarding.

A few nights ago I arrived home with the thought that at this time of year there are not many cows calving, and early lambing has not started yet, so hopefully it will be a quiet night.

This was not to be. At 8.30pm, just as I took my first mouthful of supper, the phone rang. How do clients know when supper is ready is a question I often ponder? So with the usual groan I left my food and went out into the rain to calve a cow.

The calf when I got there was just too big to come in the normal way so a caesarean was done and a huge bull calf produced.

In recent years farmers have generally improved their facilities with crushes or crates that make operating much simpler and lead generally to better results. We still do have to catch some cows, put them on a halter, and tie them to a handy gate post, but these occasions are getting rarer.

The mood of a farm vet changes on an out of hours call, from grumpy hunger to resignation, then on to practical – to get on with the job, to enjoyment of a necessary task well performed, especially if there is a good outcome such as with a live cow and calf. The parting comment in this case also improved the mood – “At least it was not 1am and you can get home for supper and bed!”

My daughter came for a visit recently. She started as a junior doctor in a hospital in August, and it was interesting to compare her experience with new assistants in the veterinary profession. So far she seems to have been working 7am to 7pm, often without a break all day. She is due to start night shifts soon.

She, like our recent graduates, is extremely enthusiastic. Her comments about the consultants she works with are also interesting in that they are in the hospital at weekends checking on patients whether they are on a rota to work or not.

I think its really good news to hear of the dedication and compassion of professionals in the NHS. That matches our expectations of the veterinary profession. This is especially true when the media is so much happier to report on the problems of the NHS.

Both professions would rather not work unsocial hours but as most clinicians are more concerned with the health and welfare of their patients, than their own, out of hours cases will continue to be seen and cared for to the best of our abilities.