Recruiting a veterinarian

First printed in the Lincoln Sentinel in January, 2015

As some of you may have heard, the LCEDF is looking into recruiting a veterinarian to Lincoln County, one of the top goals identified during the Countywide Strategic Planning session held this past fall. A large group, ranging from cattlemen to pet owners, has met to discuss our need for a vet, the pros and cons of different options (i.e. full-time vs part-time clinic), and to identify some next steps. We have also been talking to former vets, current vets, key individuals, and anybody else that seems like they might have good input and advice for us. Through these conversations, one question seems to keep coming up. We want a local vet, but will we actually support a local vet?

In THEORY, I think all of us support a local vet without waiver or question. A local vet will be convenient saving us all time and money from not having to drive as far, it will bring additional customers and revenue into the county, and it’s a good job and may bring additional good jobs with it.

The trouble though is what our support will be IN PRACTICE. Today’s vets aren’t the same as yesterday’s vets who were willing to work 24/7. Today’s vets, although still very hard working, want a different quality of life. They don’t want to be on call every moment of the day. They want a weekend off. They want a vacation. They don’t want the small-town pressure of having to drop everything at a moment’s notice to attend to everybody’s emergency as ‘this one favor’. And who can blame them? I think all of us want those things in life too!

Take this situation for example: your animal has an emergency and you call the local vet and he/she says “Sorry, I can’t make it.” Think about it. In the heat of the moment, when you need a vet most, how are you going to respond? Are you going to say a) “I understand, sorry to bother you, see you later,” b) “I understand but my emergency is important. You really need to do me this favor and help me out. I don’t have time to drive 30 miles and I don’t want to take my business elsewhere,” or c) “Screw you! From now on I am taking all my business elsewhere and telling everyone I know to do the same!” If you responded with either b or c, we have a BIG problem with local support because it’s not going to be just you calling with an emergency, it’s going to be a whole lot of us.

There is also risk for all of us. Chances are you have been going to a certain vet for years and have a well-established relationship. They know you and they know your animals. Are you willing to risk all of that to go to a new vet? What if you don’t like their personality? What if you disagree with their assessment? What if they make a mistake? We all know that in a small town one bad experience, one negative word, will spread around quickly and will stick in people’s minds much longer than twenty good experiences.

Our level of support also has a financial impact on a vet. In order to make a business go, a vet needs us to use them for routine services, not just emergency services. A new graduate in a new practice is facing a $200,000 student loan debt, a $300,000+ debt for a building, equipment, inventory, medicines, etc, on a starting salary of about $60,000 (which really is the average starting salary around here). Their business isn’t going to work if all we use them for is the occasional emergency. They need your routine business as well.

So our local support of a vet concerns me and many others. To help get a better handle on this, I plan to send out a survey soon that I would really truly love for everyone to fill out and return to me. It will be a confidential survey (so I will have no idea who said what) with the purpose of determining our local support. Depending on the answers, it will either make the job of recruiting a vet easier or harder. It will tell us if there is local support in THEORY or IN PRACTICE.

To be sure you receive the survey (to be released soon), please feel free to stop by the LCEDF office in the county courthouse basement at 216 E. Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln, give me a call at 785-524-8954, or email me at lcedfdirector@outlook.com.

Kelly Larson
Executive Director
Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation