Bermudian vet returns home
We had a new veterinarian join our team recently, Bermuda’s own Gemma Petty. She has been working in Britain before deciding to move back home and we got into a great conversation about the differences between working there and Bermuda.
It’s been almost 20 years since I worked in the UK but I can still clearly remember the freezing sensation of smashing the ice on the top of a water bucket so I could wash my hands to inject a horse. Brrrr.
We chatted about the relative distances we travelled. In the UK you would think nothing of driving for an hour each way to see a patient, but here, a 20-minute ride to Dockyard seems like for ever.
“Dr Gemma” remarked on our in-house capabilities – for instance, taking a blood sample and having the results within minutes; the rapid turnaround of our diagnostics and lab due to the necessity of living in the middle of the ocean. We have no easily accessible reference labs or specialists, so we must sharpen our skills and become specialists ourselves.
She also noted that the cost of our services in Bermuda was less than she was expecting, considering we are living on a remote island, and more equivalent to UK prices. This mostly reflects the lack of pet insurance cover available in Bermuda, meaning that practices have had to manage rising healthcare costs due to advances in technology and equipment by curtailing service charges. Vets want to provide the most modern and advanced diagnostics and treatments but must do so in a cost-effective manner for their clients. In the UK, this gap is bridged by pet insurance but in Bermuda, it is the burden of the practices themselves.
The most interesting observation that Dr Gemma made, however, was about the differing relationships with the clients. In her first week with us, she commented that she could ask any of our staff members about any client or patient, and they could tell her where they lived, the colour of their house, their pet’s name, age, breed, and pertinent information about their history. She was amazed at the level of detail we could bring forth in an instant about the animals and people we care for.
I think the reason for this is that in the UK, you often work in a very large hospital with fifteen or more vets and may only get to see a patient once or twice if you’re lucky. But due to the small size of our island and the proximity to our clients and patients, we get to know them very well. I certainly never walk through town, or visit the hairdressers or dentist, or go for a meal in a restaurant without seeing one of our clients and chatting about their pets. Our clients become friends and family and their animals as close to us as our own pets.
I have always said that being a vet is a lifestyle choice not a job. You are a vet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is not what we do, it is who we are. And this is hugely magnified in the small but perfectly formed island of Bermuda.
I’m sure this is true for many professions here, but it was interesting to get a reminder of it by chatting to Dr Gemma and watching her transition back home. She is certainly a great asset to our team and her international perspective brings knowledge, experience and also makes for an intriguing lunchtime chat.
• Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband, Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. Dr Lucy is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda