Why this Richmond veterinarian left the clinic: ‘You could never get ahead’

Posted at 6:58 AM, Oct 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-12 07:00:41-04

RICHMOND, Va. — A roving veterinarian chose to leave a West End clinic during the height of the pandemic. Dr. Evan Apotheker spent the past 10 years practicing in both small animal care and emergency medicine in Richmond. But in 2021, he made the decision to shift to house calls only.

Dr. Evan, as his clients call him, admitted that his workload was swamping his personal life. His wife was at home caring for their newborn while he was working long hours and overtime in the clinic.

“If I was coming home at 7 o'clock, [my newborn] was already in the bath. I might see him for 20 minutes in the evening and I had to leave for work in the morning, too,” Dr. Evan stated. “Seeing my son for an hour a day just wasn't a lot of contact time, and it wasn't the way that I wanted to spend the first few years of his life.”

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The veterinarian said his colleagues across the profession are experiencing burnout at levels higher than ever before.

A recent study revealed more than 86% of vets surveyed reported moderate or high ranges of burnout.

Burnout not only affects the psychological and emotional health, but also the economic health of practices and the entire industry, according to the study. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic added additional burdens to veterinary staff that likely exacerbated the causes of burnout such as changes in operations.

“Over time, it just got busier and busier. It was already busy when the pandemic started. Then after the first month or two of the pandemic, it was just drinking from a firehose,” Dr. Evan recalled. “You could never get ahead and see all the animals that were trying to be seen.”

It’s not uncommon for a doctor to leave the practice at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m.

Dr. Evan said he’s now seeing behavior issues and an increase in separation anxiety among animals as pet owners return to the workplace.

“I would say just keep up with your preventative care. Go to your vet when problems are small rather than when they're big. That way they're easier to deal with. Just be kind to your veterinarians and their staff. We've had a really hard time over the past two years. The quitting rate and burnout rate in our profession has been bad,” he advised.

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