The weather is baking when we speak to Dr Frank Wagner of the Tierärztliche Klinik Norderstedt. Despite this, work continues for the two resident surgeons he supervises.
They’ve worked with Dr Wagner and his colleague, Professor Rafael Nickel, for three years now, learning soft-tissue and orthopaedic surgery skills. Although one of the residencies ended in July, there’s an exam on the horizon, while the other resident has another year of training to complete.
“The Board Exam takes place every February at the University of Zurich lecture halls,” explains Frank. “Everyone agrees you need several months to prepare for it – universities advise six – which is why they’ve finished work now.”
The residents are working towards becoming ‘Diplomates’, a status created by the European College of Veterinary Surgeons. Achieving this requires supervision by recognised specialists at certified facilities. While these are mostly at universities, Norderstedt is one of the few private clinics that also fits the bill. Extensively equipped, staffed by Diplomates and located close to Hamburg , it sees a varied caseload that gives the residents plenty of learning experience.
“There are no highly trained vets hanging around waiting to be recruited, so we decided to train our own surgeons.”
Dr Frank Wagner – Surgeon
Increased owner expectation is driving this need for more specialised surgeons. “Nowadays, more is technically possible and owners are willing to spend more money for veterinary health care,” says Frank. “Residency programmes exist, and people are keen to get on them, because they give them an excellent chance on the job market. From Evidensia’s viewpoint, there are no highly trained vets hanging around on the street waiting to be recruited. That was why we said, ‘Okay, for the future, maybe it’s better to try and educate our own surgeons.’”
Yet the Diplomate programme represents a considerable investment. As well as the three years of supervised work, each resident must spend eight weeks of rotation in anaesthesia, pathology, internal medicine and diagnostic imaging. “We have sent them to universities in Zurich, Vienna and so on,” says Frank, “which of course involves travel costs. They also have time off to prepare presentations, write articles, etc. That’s a lot of paid time off.”
Of course, Evidensia doesn’t know what each vet will do once they achieve Diplomate status. “They could say, ‘Thanks for the last three years, now I’m going to the UK.’ But that’s the risk we are prepared to take because otherwise you have to find surgeons on the job market, which is currently very challenging.”
By taking that risk, Evidensia is investing in the European veterinary sector. The hope is that, with a culture of openness and great career opportunities, this talent will remain within Evidensia for decades to come.