Practice owner and vet says partnering with Vets Now was a release from the constant pressure of 24/7 care
Michael Morrow remembers vividly the weekend that changed his life, both personally and professionally.
After months of non-stop care at the veterinary practice he was building from scratch, he employed Vets Now to take on his out-of-hours care.
For two days he could finally relax, sure in the knowledge his clients were in the safest of hands. And, having seen the transformation it brought about, Michael has trusted his out-of-hours care to Vets Now for the past 13 years.
Along with his own drive and dedication, it has helped him build a thriving practice, recruit and retain the best vets and achieve the perfect work-life balance.
And he still sleeps easy every night knowing he has no fears over the welfare of his clients and their pets.
Having qualified in Pretoria, Michael moved back to the UK in January 2000, setting up St Vincents Veterinary Surgery, in Wokingham, Berks, in 2005.
Like many vets starting out, establishing a new business took every moment of his time.
“It was just myself and a nurse to begin with and, apart from that one weekend, I was on call or working 24/7 for two years,” said dad-of-two Michael.
“I had young kids at the time and the drain on family life was enormous. There was constant pressure, with interruptions to birthday parties, anniversary dinners and much more.
“You couldn’t even relax by going to a movie because you were waiting for that call-out. When we went to social events, we always had to take two cars so I could get away to attend a client.
“There was a physical and emotional toll. You’re trying to be your best person for the client, but when you’ve been woken up for the third time in one night and you’re back in that morning, you become tense and short.
“At the end of two years, I looked back at my records and we averaged out-of-hours turnover – not profit – of £9 a day.”
While his round-the-clock attention helped him get up and running, Michael knew it wasn’t sustainable and he took the opportunity to trial the Vets Now service over a single weekend.
He says the relief and release from the pressure cooker of personal care was such that he felt Christmas had come early.
“The break I had in that 48-hour window was enough to see me through the next six months,” said Michael simply. “Just that complete downtime with no responsibilities or stress.
“As soon as we could, we prioritised signing up full-time as I knew what a difference it would make to our lives, both professionally and for the family.”
The most critical thing for Michael is a confidence in the care provided.
In his case, that comes from the Vets Now clinic in Reading, one of a nationwide network of state-of-the-art clinics and hospitals open seven days a week for pet emergencies.
“I know my clients are going to be looked after,” said Michael. “I’m not just palming my phones off on someone who might answer and might give reasonable service.
“There’s an expectation about the level of care I’m passing my clients on to. I get to rest and be sorted for tomorrow and the client gets looked after if there’s a problem.
“That’s what I’m buying. I’m not just buying the time off, I’m buying a service of the standard we’d expect.
“The peace of mind comes with knowing things will be done properly. It’s not only time off I’m looking for, it’s time off with an easy conscience.”
Michael follows up with every single client who has been seen or spoken to by Vets Now, checking not just on their animal but also their experience.
And having vets he trusts handling those middle-of-the-night and weekend emergencies is critical.
“When I see the names on the forms the next day, I know the client has been looked after,” said Michael.
“I know that they are good vets and good communicators. The animal comes to me with the owner knowing what’s going on and what the next step might be.”
Michael says he’s always pro-active with clients, ensuring they know that Vets Now provide the out-of-hours care and exactly what it entails.
“I make sure they are reassured about the service way before they need it,” said Michael.
“I very much sell it as a positive, telling them that it’s an A&E service that will provide the medical and surgical care to put their animal into a stable state so we can do the next steps.”
Since those early one-man band days, Michael has been able to expand St Vincents very successfully.
He now has two other full-time vets, another working three days a week, two qualified nurses, two trainees, two receptionists and a practice administrator.
And the Vets Now service has definitely played a part in staff recruitment and retention.
“One of the top searched-for things with vets looking for a job is no out-of-hours,” said Michael.
“The younger generation coming through don’t see it as necessary to do out-of-hours.
“Years ago it was common, but now they don’t expect to work one in three nights, or whatever.
“I’ve got two vets who’ve been with me for more than four years and it’s unusual for young vets to stay that long. If I made them do out-of-hours, I’d be less likely to retain them if another local practice were offering a job that didn’t require that.
“In terms of recruitment, having quality staff and building an environment where people are rested and enthusiastic during the day, the Vets Now service is a really big factor.”
With the client care in reassuringly good hands, Michael has the time off to recharge his batteries for the day ahead.
Unsurprisingly, though, he is never far from animals, having two dogs, Scruffy and Paige, and two cats, Echo and Lightening.
“I used to do triathlons quite seriously and enjoy runs with Paige, who’s the newest addition to the family,” added Michael.
“But that went by the wayside a bit with the coronavirus crisis as I had one vet on maternity leave and one on furlough. So, I was doing six days straight for 15 weeks.
“If I’d had to do OOH on top of that, I’d be broken with the workload and the stress and trying to manage everything.
“When the phones go over at 6.30pm, it’s a blessing.”
Does Michael’s story resonate with you? Click here to learn more about how partnering with Vets Now could benefit you.