I can honestly say that this is not a post I ever though I would be writing. I guess that falls in line with the rest of how Bear Creek has developed, because I never thought I would be the owner of practice like Bear Creek.
I never envisioned myself at this point in my life or career doing what I am now doing. To say it has been a journey with unexpected turns and surprises, ups and downs, is probably the biggest understatement of the century. Those of you that follow me personally via social media know that my life has taken some hits, but I have kept going. I have trudged on and tried to put on a brave face. When I have been in physical pain, I have tried to plaster on a smile and not let anyone know how hard I have been pushing myself.
My husband, family and friends have been my saving grace – my strength when I had none and my hope when I thought all was lost. My wonderful staff and veterinarians have really tried to hold things up when I have been out recently due to the broken ribs and damaged shoulder and do the things that I have been unable to do. They have performed beyond-amazingly and by-far exceeded their fair share of responsibility with great cost to their personal and family time. My family and friends have also missed having me in their lives. Even when I am home, Amy is not present, because my mind is always on Bear Creek. The reason for the stress has been multifaceted, but to sum it all up, Bear Creek and I have both been spread too thin.
I have sacrificed much over the years to be there for patients and clients. To be there for you guys has been very important to me because you are important to me. This community is important to me and you have shown that love right back by putting your trust in us since the day I first started out with nothing more than a pickup truck. That is the reason Bear Creek has grown as it has. The community and God’s grace has developed this practice into what it is, not me. Bear Creek has grown so large, so overwhelmingly busy, in such a short period of time that we are not able to handle the demand. This is a great blessing that is accompanied by great challenges.
The combination of large and small animal medicine and the added pressure of emergency duty has started to create cracks in our mental armor – to the point where none of us can get a break and the fear is that we will make mistakes and ruin the trust you have placed in us. We all feel the mental and emotional burden. It is wearing on all of us, but I feel as if the world is resting on my shoulders alone; that I am holding it all up. It’s that personal feeling that I’m the lynch-pin that everything revolves around so to speak. I’ve kept it all together for the most part, but only by a thread and that thread is unraveling. Before the thread breaks and everything comes crashing down around me and takes everyone out with it, I am making some tough decisions.
I have no doubt that these decisions will not be popular with everyone. I have however, given these decisions much thought and soul-searching. In the overall big picture side of things, this will allow Bear Creek to continue to serve this community as it always has, but with a different focus and renewed fervor.
It is my hope that Bear Creek will always be a place that you can put your trust in and come to for help and comfort. So here goes….
Large Animal Medicine
Bear Creek will no longer be able to provide large animal services in any capacity. My body simply cannot sustain more trauma and I will have to leave large animal medicine and opt for the safety of the clinic. I’ve been doing large-animal medicine for 17 years and the toll it has taken on my body was already causing me to have to plan for this decision – two decades of flanking 1,000 pound horses and cattle is brutal on the body. Lifting 200 pound pigs and goats onto the surgery table, pulling calves in the freezing mud in the of the night for too many years… it’s taken its toll on me physically. The recent injury that took my shoulder out of commission moved the time-table up quicker than I’d ever considered and sooner than I was ready for, but I can’t change it.
Dr Katie Pike’s specialized surgery skills in companion animal dentistry and her new found passion for this discipline has placed her in the clinic more and more as well. This is another mixed blessing. We are able to perform services in-house for clients that we couldn’t perform even two years ago. It saves you time and money by not having to travel to a specialist out of the county, which is a good thing, but it takes one of my large-animal doctors out of the field. This leaves the compassionate and dedicated Dr. Reynolds Gray to shoulder the burden of field work on her own. This is too daunting of a task for any one person, though she has done her best.
Large animal veterinarians are becoming a rare commodity.
I am saddened to say that fewer and fewer people are seeking a career in large animal medicine. The demand for veterinarians willing to live in rural areas and provide large animal medicine is at an all time low. The ability to hire additional veterinarians specifically to meet this need in a reasonable time frame is simply not achievable.
When you combine this with the growth of small-animal medicine and our need to add to the ever-increasing demand for veterinarians in the clinic, we can no longer spread our resources so thin. Large animal medicine is unique in that emergency duty is always a requirement.
There are no large animal emergency services that provide emergency coverage for practices when needed. We cannot simply say that we will only come out during the day and not at night like we can for small animal. We also cannot say that we will provide in-house large animal service on a haul-in only basis. We must provide farm call services to those that cannot come in and we must do it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year or we are not allowed to practice large-animal medicine. This is a NC vet board requirement set by the state, so we can’t work around it. I’ve tried, but state will not let Bear Creek operate large-animal during the day without also doing it at night, and with only one non-injured veterinarian to cover the entire large animal practice area, its simply not possible to continue without burning out our veterinarians.
Therefore, it is my decision to discontinue that portion of the practice altogether. Dr. Pike, Dr. Gray and I will move into the clinic and provide small animal services only. Dr Gray is still able to provide chiropractic services to all species including equine, but on an in-clinic basis only.
We also cannot provide routine preventative or emergency medicine any longer for large-animal patients due to the same limitation from the state. This will take affect beginning May 25, 2019 at 6 pm. Friday, end of business day, will be our last day of large animal medicine – and what I consider the end of era. This will be the closing of a chapter and the beginning of a new one. As the world marches forward, we must adapt to keep up. I do so regret that I feel as if I am leaving many of you behind, but I simply have no choice if I wish to continue to practice medicine and I do.
The next decision is also tough for me personally. We will no longer be able to provide emergency services to our small animal clients after regular business hours.
When I decided to do small animal medicine in 2013, it was with the pretense that I would do it the way I felt it should be done and that was to be on-call for after hours emergency services to my clients. I felt it was the right thing to do; to be there for my clients when they needed me most. After all, crises do not always happen during regular business hours. I do feel that this was something that set us apart initially.
I hope that now, after seventeen years serving this community, you feel that what really sets us apart is our compassion and desire to care for you and your pet no matter the problem, big or small. I have no problem telling you that providing after-hours emergency duty has been one of the biggest challenges to overcome in hiring and keeping veterinarians and staff members over the years.
Fewer and fewer are able or willing to work during the day and then be called back at night. Even with additional compensation, to be taken away from their children and spouses repeatedly, sometimes multiple times in the same night, is too great a burden to bear for most people. We’ve been so blessed with new patients faster than than we can build new clinic space to treat them these recent years. I’ve been actively seeking more veterinarians since 2014 and the single biggest reason they decline is because they aren’t willing to sacrifice their nights and weekends on top of their day shift.
The dwindling number of staff members that are sharing this duty is creating a drain on them. We have lost, and are going to continue to lose, good people to other jobs or clinics simply because they do not impose this duty on them.
Veterinarians that are willing to work evenings or share emergency duty are simply impossible to find in the market right now. Our current staff of veterinarians, technicians, assistants and receptionists are doing the best they can with the duties imposed on them by me and this clinic but they are operating in battle-field conditions day in and day out and have been for six months straight with no end in sight. I simply cannot ask it of them and myself any longer; for their well-being and my own. If I burn out my doctors or myself, there isn’t anyone left to care for the patients.
We will also be making additional accommodations to handle more appointments during regular business hours and going above and beyond to get everyone seen that needs to be seen. Having two more veterinarians in the clinic full time will allow us to see 40% more patients during the day than we have been able to in the past. However, once the phones roll over to after-hours, we will be referring to the Carolina Veterinary Specialty Hospital in Matthews, NC.
I know this sounds like a far drive to make in an emergency, but they are equipped to handle any emergency that comes their way and they are staffed 24-hours a day, which we are not. Short of a trip to Raleigh and the NC Veterinary Teaching Hospital, there is no place better equipped to handle your small animal emergencies.
The after hours emergency service will be discontinued immediately beginning April 29, 2019. The after-hours voicemail will be changed to notify clients and the referral hospital’s contact number will be posted.
I am happy to announce that we plan to continue making small animal house calls on a limited basis, but the radius from the clinic for this service will be tightening to within 20 minutes from the clinic. Our range for house calls grew out of control; due mostly to our large animal service area. We have to reel that back in a little. With only one doctor in the field, we can’t drive one hour east, then one hour west and still see more than a few patients per day – and there are always more than a few patients to be seen for house calls.
To wrap-up this rather upsetting verbiage, it is my sincere wish that these decisions are met with understanding as we strive to continue to meet the demand for quality medicine and compassionate care for those in our community.
I realize that many will be burdened to find veterinary care elsewhere and this a regret I will have to carry.
I am posting contact information for practices that currently offer veterinary services for large animals within the circumference of patients we used to see. This is in no way an agreement between Bear Creek or these other practices. Your client records have not been sold and will never be. You are free to contact whomever you choose.
At your convenience, contact us and let us know your wishes as to where you would like your medical records to be sent and we will get them emailed in a timely manner. We can also email them directly to you and you may keep them for future use. Your information and records will not be deleted unless they are inactive for 3 years per standards set forth by the NCVMB.
If you are reading this, you are not just my clients, you are my friends and neighbors. I will see you in the grocery store and run into you at the post office. I do still hope to see most of you in the clinic. You are still in my heart and memory even if I don’t see you on the farm. The stories written in Tales from the Vet Truck will be filled with those memories.
Dr. Amy Jordan