The BVA has begun documenting the working life challenges facing vets in rural practice.

With figures showing three out of four large/production animal vets regularly work out-of-hours (OOH) and anecdotal evidence application for jobs in rural practice is in decline, the BVA’s Workforce Issues Working Group has put issues around work-life balance under the microscope.

Challenging practice area

Vet Ashley Rubens’ Dartmoor location led him to win a competition to find the vet with the toughest terrain to cross.

As part of the exercise, the group has focused on a vet with one of the most challenging practice areas in the country.

Ashley Rubens is a partner at Moorgate Veterinary Group in Newton Abbot, Devon, where he specialises in emergency medicine and surgery, and is an active member of the Dartmoor Rescue Group.

He’s also the winner of a competition run by the BVA and Subaru – sponsor of the BVA In Practice CPD programme – to find the vet with the toughest terrain to cross in the course of his or her job.

‘Life or death’

Mr Rubens said: “It’s one of the big pleasures of the job, being able to get out on the moors.

“I’m very lucky to work right on the border of an amazing national park. I’m often driving 45 minutes to an hour to reach a call out.

“Delays can be very dangerous. Without wanting to sound dramatic, it can be life or death if you’re delayed on your way to a difficult calving.”

Tremendous rewards

The BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey showed 75% of large/production animal vets work OOH, compared to 47% of companion animal vets.

Around 9 in 10 mixed practice vets (91%) and 88% of equine vets also work OOH.

BVA president Gudrun Ravetz said: “We know vets who work in rural practices face challenges, but they also gain tremendous rewards from working in rural practice and, for many vets who chose this work, it is because they love rural life and everything it has to offer.

“What we need to do is to ensure all vets – wherever they work – have a good work-life balance.

“The BVA’s Workforce Issues Working Group is looking at issues around hours worked and flexible working. While all vets know OOH is part of the job, we need to make sure vets like Ashley have time to take part in other activities, such as volunteering for the Dartmoor Rescue Group, or simply enjoying the rugged terrain of somewhere as beautiful as the Dartmoor National Park.”

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