Hello Bear Creek Family!

2020/2021 has provided Bear Creek Veterinary Hospital with many challenges in scheduling as well as  staffing.  Every single patient and client is very special to us, therefore we felt it was necessary to write to each of you and keep you updated on various issues and solutions we are experiencing on a day to day basis.  BCVH has prided itself in the relationships we have built over the last 15+ years and we will continue to work to earn the trust you have placed in us.  That means face to face conversations and decision making. 

During a world pandemic, we were one of the few clinics who did not have to shut their doors for any period of time. We had to adhere to the regulations set forth by the state of North Carolina and provide a safe working environment for our staff so that we could be here for you and your pet(s). We were one of the first clinics to allow clients back into the building because we know how important it is to be with your pet(s) during their visit. I can’t imagine having to say Goodbye to a pet and have them put to sleep only to be forced to not be by their side.  As soon as state regulations allowed, we lifted them here as well.  Most clinics still remain under COVID restrictions and limitations even now.  

Scheduling has remained challenging each and every day whether we had 4 doctors, or now just 3.  We value your time as well and therefore adhere to a structured schedule instead of a walk-in based schedule.  This allows us to provide time for you and your pet(s) and provide quality service and care at each visit.  On top of the normal schedule, we see drop-off appointments and emergency work ins on a daily basis for those individuals that truly need to be seen when no appointment times are available.  Yes, the emergency work-ins do come with a fee ($50); but without that fee, every non-emergency “emergency” wants to be worked-in and pretty soon, we are just a walk-in clinic.  There are only a certain number of work-in’s per day that can be seen as our doctors do need to be able to catch up, eat lunch, and just clear their heads for a brief moment before diving back into the chaos. 

Due to the high demand, we are unfortunately booked 1 to 2 weeks out for well visits and 2 months for surgeries. Be assured that we are seeing the maximum number of patients we possibly can while still maintaining the quality of care you have become accustomed to. The limiting factor is the number of veterinarians on staff to see patients.  We are in need of 3 additional providers but with the shortage of veterinarians in the industry nationwide, it is difficult to find new candidates.  Shoving more appointments into shorter and shorter time slots to increase the number of patients seen will only water down the care you receive and that is not our mission.  We will NOT do this! We will not take away from the reputation of quality and compassionate care we have provided to this community over the years.  We are however, working diligently to maximize the efficiency of our doctors with support staff and well-trained nurses that can perform procedures that our veterinarians are not mandated to perform so that they can focus on the necessary tasks only.  Therefore, they can see the extra drop-offs and work-ins.  

We have added a call center upstairs to handle the high incoming call load and focus more on customer service to clients calling in and in our lobby.  This way our front desk staff can concentrate on the clients in front of them with a less chaotic atmosphere in the lobby and more attention to detail in both departments.  This means fewer mistakes and happier clients.  The call center is focused on closely monitoring the schedule for cancellations and reschedules so that if you have called and want to be seen, they can monitor those spots that come available and get you in if possible.  So, keep in mind that when you call our office and we have to sadly say that we have no open appointments,  it is due to our already booked schedule, but we will do our best to alert you of openings and options as they arise.  It is not that we do not care about you or your pet(s). It is simply that we can not physically see  more patients than we already are and still provide quality care.  At any time, if you feel your pet(s) needs immediate attention and we are unable to see your pet at the time you want them seen, we recommend that you take them to one of the 24-hr Emergency facilities:  Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Matthews (704-819-3939) or Charlotte Animal Referral & Emergency in Charlotte (704-457-2300). We are simply unable to see every single sick patient or emergency that arises throughout the day. We do our very best where we can, but have to set limitations.

We have some pretty amazing clients and we value our old and new relationships alike.  We hold high the relationship we have with you and your pet(s).  Thank you for recognizing that we want what is best for you and your pet(s), while also taking care of our team.  That way, they can be there for you for the long run, not just today. 

I always welcome your feedback and want to hear about your concerns, but please make sure you are providing constructive criticism and being respectful. My entire staff works hard each and every day they step foot inside this building. Our current staffing and scheduling issues have nothing to do with the amount of dedication my team displays on a daily basis to you and your furr-babies.  I welcome any opportunity to speak or meet you while you are here for an appointment.  I look forward to building relationships within the Bear Creek Family. 


Jill Russell

Bear Creek Veterinary Hospital Administrator


Those of you that know me well, know that I am one of those individuals that tells you like it is and does not beat around the bush.  Those that do not know me, will understand that by the end of this letter. 

Since the very day I opened Bear Creek, I did so with no set end direction in mind.  I knew the basic principles on which I wanted to build the practice, but I had no end game other than to follow where the demand led me.  I would grow as the need grew.  I went from a solo, large animal practitioner with a truck out of my basement to a 6-doctor mixed animal practice that saw after hours emergencies with two trucks and large facility and now to 3 doctor practice that only does small animal and no after-hours emergency.  That downtrend and annexation of large animal and emergency medication was not due to lack of demand, however.  It was solely due to a lack of acceptable veterinary candidates to fill the spots.  If my vision and plan for practice had come to fruition, we would be a 24hr hospital with a separate night shift and fully staffed clinic that saw clients night and day with no patient left unattended and no one turned away with ample appointment times available and no need for “work-ins” at all. The small animal clientele has only grown, and I need to hire three additional veterinarians to meet the current demand of the day, let alone a separate night shift. 

I have been actively searching and recruiting potential veterinarians from across the country with no success.   The burden of the demand of a 6-doctor practice is being carried by 3 doctors.  This has put an exponential amount of stress on the three of us attempting to care for the pets and clients in our care.  For a time, we all attempted to buckle down and bear it until reinforcements could arrive, but they didn’t come.  Either we had to continue to grin and bear it until we fell apart or we had to make changes to handle what we could as efficiently as possible and limit the wear and tear on ourselves to be able to function if reinforcements never arrive.  Boundaries had to be drawn and we had to start prioritizing ourselves and our own mental health.  We recognized that if we did not do so, none of us would be here to bear any load at all.  I feel the responsibility for my colleagues’ mental health status as well as my own.  My family deserves my time and my mental health to be there for them more than anyone.  I came to the realization that most clients are not concerned with our mental health.  They are only concerned with what they want and when they want it.  It matters not to them the circumstances under which we are working.  The nonstop case after case, request after request, complaint after complaint does not fall on deaf ears, but it is not a situation easily rectified. 

Bottom line is this.  The policies of the clinic have been set by me for the benefit of the whole and the long-distance stamina of the staff and doctors.  For the benefit of my clients and anyone that cares to read this letter, I am going to bullet a few items of great importance and explain the situation. 

  • The rules of the clinic apply to everyone equally.  I do not play favorites.  No one client or patient is more important than anyone else.  Do not think that complaining about having to pay an emergency fee or having to wait for an appointment because you have spent X amount of $ or being with us for X number of years is going to suddenly and miraculously allow us to find an open spot for you that does not require an extra fee or a wait.
  • Lack of planning on your part, does not constitute an emergency on ours.  Sick patients take priority.  Prescription refills are performed as we have time between sick patients.  Just because you wait until the last minute, show up and demand a refill on the spot, does not mean that we will drop what we are doing and fill your medication for you.  We ask you give us 24-48hrs to process refill requests.
  • If you have a complaint regarding the above-mentioned points, those complaints should be directed to the Hospital Administrator, not to me.  Trust me in that she will handle the situation with much more diplomacy and customer service than I will.  I am over stressed, over worked, and underappreciated.  My solution to the problem will not likely result in an outcome you will find more desirable.   
  • There is no cause for being rude or abusive.  A legitimate complaint, concern or criticism is welcome and will be investigated and followed up on.  We acknowledge that we are made up of human components that fall short and will make mistakes.  Mistakes should be identified and rectified whenever possible.  However, loud, aggressive, and unreasonable behavior will not be tolerated and will find you on the receiving end of a letter of termination of services.  Meaning we will no longer be able to provide you with services, ever. 

I apologize only for not being able to find more veterinarians that would solve all our problems and make all our lives better.  Until that day comes, we will make do with the resources available to us.  I do not and will not apologize for prioritizing the mental health and wellbeing of my staff, doctors, and myself.  I do hope most of you will understand and take this letter as what it truly is…the unadulterated truth straight from the heart.