Long hours, tough terrain but rural vets “still love the job”

09 May 2017

With media reports about the difficulties of recruiting young vets to rural practices and new figures from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) showing 75% of large/production animal vets regularly work out-of-hours, BVA is working with Subaru and vet Ashley Rubens to document the challenges of working life in rural practice.

Ashley was photographed in his work as a partner of Moorgate Veterinary Practice in Dartmoor, where he specialises in emergency medicine and surgery and is also an active member of the Dartmoor Rescue Group. Ashley was the winner of a competition run by BVA and Subaru, sponsors of the BVA In Practice CPD programme, to find the vet with the toughest terrain to cross in the course of their job.

On the ups and downs of working in a rural practice Ashley said: 
“I love working in a rural area. It’s great to spend so much time outdoors and I really feel like a part of the local community. You get to know all of your individual clients very well, all of their specific needs and how best to communicate with them. I find that particularly rewarding.

“If I’m going out to lots of calls for the day I’ll always take my Labrador, Midge, in the back seat. She loves coming along with me and we take any opportunity to get out for a walk on the moors between calls.”

“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.”

BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey shows three in four large animal vets, like Ashley, work out-of-hours, with working out-of-hours slightly less common amongst companion animal vets (47%), but around nine in ten mixed practice and equine vets (91%/88%) working out-of-hours.

BVA President Gudrun Ravetz commented:
“We know that 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 that all vets – wherever they work – have a good life/work balance. BVA’s Workforce Issues Working Group is looking at issues around hours worked and flexible working. While all vets know that out-of-hours is part of the job, we need to make sure that 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.”

BVA Media Office