Bendigo vets have finally been able to catch their breath, after a successful first week of their nightly on call service.
Seven local veterinary clinics came together a few weeks ago to draft a plan to combat rising levels of fatigue among both vets and nurses, as Australia's national shortage continues.
The service that kicked off on Monday last week see's one of the seven clinics open for an on call service one night per week - rather than each clinic running their own after hours services.
Bendigo Animal Hospital veterinarian Chris Allison said that the system in place before saw vets responsible for their own after hours clinics, resulting in an increasingly heavy and unpredictable workload.
"It got to a point where you were getting called out three or four times a night practically every night," Dr Allison said.
The frustration was echoed by Fur Life vet Dr Kellie Anset.
"Even if you weren't getting called in you still couldn't relax", she said, "you'd always be thinking, is that phone going to ring?"
However, one week on from the new program, the vets say things are looking up.
"It's been chilling out everyone's nights so much more, you get home and you can just switch off," said Dr Anset.
As well as the nightly clinic rotations, the vets are trialling a new triage system for the service, which is also helping ease the pressure.
"All the phone calls are getting diverted through to one triage nurse," Dr Anset said, "who will chat to the owner about what's going on and work out if it needs a consultation or if the nurse can just give over the phone advice."
"It saves us answering calls ourselves, so we're only seeing the most important ones in that nightly clinic."
"It's definitely a work in progress, but it's such a huge improvement for staff morale overall."
Nonetheless, Dr Anset said there are a few teething issues with the system.
"We're still getting used to how busy the nights on call can be," she said, "but doing it once a week or fortnight is so much easier."
The nightly clinics are perhaps a short term solution to a nationwide industry issue, but it could be a system worth replicating in regional towns with similar populations and similar issues - such as Ballarat.
For now however, vets like Kellie Anset are taking a moment to recuperate.
"The other night I sent the other vet a photo of me with my feet up and a wine in hand," Dr Anset said, "that's the first Monday night in as long as I can remember where I've been able to do that."
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