Outsourcing out-of-hours care has allowed vet to spend more time with his family

At Vets Now, we understand the importance of a good work-life balance.

It’s something we pride ourselves on being able to offer our own people, as well as the partner practices who use our service at nights, on weekends and bank holidays.

For vet David Bull, our out-of-hours cover allows him to run a successful practice while also being able to spend quality time with his young family.

David, 36, grew up near Chepstow and is practice owner at Lincoln South Vets4Pets inside Pets at Home. David, who has a special interest in surgery and anaesthesia and is an RCVS advanced practitioner in small animal surgery, co-owns the practice with his wife Lucy, whom he met while studying at Liverpool University.

Lucy is currently on maternity leave and the couple have two young children, Jack, three, and five-month-old Toby, as well as whippet cross-collie, Nellie.

In this Q&A, David explains the positive impact our out-of-hours cover has had on his work-life balance.

Image of David and Lucy Bull with their children and dog for Vets Now article on partner practice experiences
Vets Now's out-of-hours cover allows David and Lucy to spend time with their family

Did you always want to be a vet?

Yes, for just as long as I can remember. On Sunday mornings I used to get up at 4 am and cycle in all weathers to a farm to help do the milking. My dad was always really supportive of whatever we all wanted to do — I’ve got a brother and two sisters — and he helped get me placements at vet practices. I went to one every Monday evening after school for about two-and-a-half years.

What was your first practice after you graduated?

I spent two years at a mixed practice in Barnsley as I wanted to use everything I’d learned and work with all species. I found that I preferred small animal work and because I couldn’t progress doing just that there, I moved to Calder Vets, a large small animal first opinion and referral practice in West Yorkshire, where I was able to progress my skills and work towards a certificate.

Did you do out-of-hours work and how did you find it?

The mixed practice did its own OOH. You’d work one of the weekdays and one week in five you’d be on call the Friday, Saturday, Sunday as well as fixed consulting slots on the Saturday. As a recent graduate, I felt it was a good opportunity to gain experience, but it was hard work. From a work-life balance perspective, it may be good for the start of a career, but it isn’t sustainable. There were Mondays when I’d come in after a weekend on call and I’d be really tired. I’d worry about whether, potentially, decisions I was making were going to be right.

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Tell us about opening Vets4Pets

Lucy’s family are from Lincoln and we were looking to move closer to them as we were thinking of starting a family. There was a lot of talk as to whether we found jobs at different practices or made the jump to open one on our own. When the opportunity came to take on Vets4Pets we felt their ethos matched how we wanted to run a practice and we opened in February 2014. We were very excited, but it was a big jump and probably a little earlier in our careers than we thought we’d do it. We were expecting opening a practice from scratch to be hard work and it was even tougher than we thought. It was a worry that we might be twiddling our thumbs, but right from the moment we opened we were really busy.

Did you decide to go with Vets Now for your OOH care straight away?

Having had the OOH experience in my first job, I knew doing it ourselves just wasn’t going to be sustainable for Lucy and myself. So, we went with Vets Now from day one. I don’t think we would have considered opening the practice if that wasn’t the case. Most of the other practices in the city already used Vets Now, so clients here were used to that care.

How has it worked for you?

When we close the practice, we know that there is someone we trust to deal with our emergency work. And we also transfer our in-patients to Vets Now in Lincoln for their overnight care, so there are staff to monitor them appropriately rather than being left here unsupervised. That’s just not how we’d want to work. It gives me real peace of mind knowing the standard of care we’d want for our clients and patients is always there. And our team are always fresh to perform at our best when the practice is open.

Image of David and Lucy Bull for Vets Now article on partner practice experiences
David and Lucy opened Vets4Pets in Lincoln in 2014 and have used our service since day one

How has the practice expanded over the past six-and-half years?

Initially, Lucy and I were the only vets and we had one qualified nurse, a student nurse, a veterinary care assistant and two part-time receptionists. Now, with Lucy on maternity leave, we have five vets, six nurses, a veterinary care assistant and three receptionists.

What difference has using Vets Now made to your work-life balance?

Knowing your OOH is covered by someone you trust when the phones are switched over is a big deal. You can just close the practice and forget about it for the evening. I’d like to say it gives me time for hobbies – but we’ve got two young children so they pretty much take up all the time! They are our real focus and it’s lovely knowing you can spend time as a family in the evenings and weekends. Or you can go off for a day trip together. But even if it’s just something as simple as going for a run after work, you know you’re not going to be contacted.

Then there’s our dog, Nellie. She came in as a stray in my first job on a weekend I was working. She cried when she was left alone, so we took her home in the evenings and, basically, she never left! She’s 12 now and she’s adorable, so it’s great to be able to enjoy her company.

Does the level of expertise at Vets Now give you reassurance?

You know that the staff have been through in-house emergency and critical care training. So I’m confident that they know what they’re doing with our out-of-hours cases.

What would be your advice to anyone considering using Vets Now for OOH care?

If you’re a small practice, I don’t know how you’d manage to be doing the work any other way if you want that work-life balance. And when it comes to your assistant vets, it’s becoming more and more the case that they don’t want to be doing that night work. It means you have vets that are wide awake and ready for what they’ll face on their shifts. Our vets certainly appreciate knowing they can enjoy their evenings, which obviously helps with staff retention.

Would you like to achieve a work-life balance like David? Click here to learn more about how partnering with Vets Now could benefit you and your team.