The Vision of a Centre of Excellence for the New Animal Referral Hospital in Canberra

The Vision of a Centre of Excellence for the New Animal Referral Hospital in Canberra

When considering a prospective job, the majority of veterinarians consistently prioritise three key factors, seeking:

  • A role where they will feel supported and mentored in their professional development
  • An environment where they can work cohesively with a team of like-minded, focused colleagues to achieve the best possible outcomes for patients and clients
  • The ability to finish work, switch off and enjoy some well-earned time off!

These goals are firmly in mind with the upcoming launch of the new Animal Referral Hospital (ARH) – Canberra which will move the team from the current site in Fyshwick to a new purpose-built facility in Pialligo.

The ARH team

The new ARH Canberra premises will be opening in September 2021 and will deliver expanded access to specialist services and 24-hour emergency care, as well as the addition of a new advanced high-field MRI machine. The current surgery, medicine and emergency teams will be joined by up to five more specialist veterinarians, with plans for an even greater range of on-site services.

Dr Wye Li Chong, the ARH Canberra Surgical Resident, highlights the collaboration between teams as one of the most outstanding things about working at ARH, and feels that this community approach to diagnostics and treatment offers an even greater standard of care. “Recently, we treated a patient with a large liver tumour. We performed a CT scan, with a prompt imaging review, and made a detailed plan. A difficult surgery ended up being a really controlled process where everyone knew what their specific job was – like a precise dance,” he says.

Dr Chong also describes great emotional support amongst the ARH staff, with the surgery team being encouraged to debrief together after difficult cases to discuss, “What went well, what didn’t go well, and how we feel”. He feels ARH Canberra fosters a culture of excellent case learning and reflection, where vets are encouraged to have open discussions without judgement. Dr Chong believes this helps not only to maintain the mental health of team members in a challenging environment, but also functions to identify areas of focus in order to promote a culture of continuous improvement.

Dr Candice Evans, Clinical Director of the Emergency Department of ARH Canberra, also highly values the supportive and mentoring team atmosphere. She feels the most important part of any job is creating a good environment to work in. “You can offer high pay, but people want more than that. You want to like the people you’re working with, and be supported and have the equipment to do the job properly, which we have,” she says. Dr Evans enjoys the collaborative approach at ARH, both within the Emergency Department (where vets are encouraged to focus on the specific areas they’re interested in and ask for help where they need it), and also regarding the availability of other vets (such as specialist surgeons) overnight for assistance if required. “You never feel you’re there by yourself,” she says, “and you’re always learning from other viewpoints and opinions”.

For Dr Jacob Michelsen, Specialist Surgeon at ARH Canberra, his favourite aspects of working at ARH Canberra are the talented, like-minded staff and the high-quality equipment, which afford him the freedom to work how he wants in order to best help patients and clients. For Dr Michelsen, one of his biggest career motivations is seeing patient quality of life improve as a consequence of veterinary treatment.

The ACT veterinary community

As a centre of veterinary excellence, the upgraded ARH Canberra will offer not only gold standard care to each animal patient, but also a supportive learning environment for ARH staff and the wider vet community. In conjunction with Greencross Vets, ARH Canberra will participate in the Veterinary Graduate Program, where new graduates rotate through a series of placements with specialist, emergency and GP vets, gaining valuable support, mentoring and practical experience to assist with the potentially tough transition from university to practice.

In expanding their capabilities, the team at ARH hope to provide other local Canberra veterinarians with even greater specialist support, both through direct referral and readily-available phone support for case diagnosis and management. The resident specialists also regularly host continuing education seminars for local vets to attend, with the aim of fostering a collegial culture in the ACT veterinary community. Dr Chong is firmly of the opinion that, “All the Canberra vets are in this together, and we’re all colleagues”.

The Canberra Region

The team of ARH are excited about the upcoming growth opportunity, which promises not only to benefit the existing community of ACT vets, but hopefully also attract more vets into Canberra – a city which they feel has hugely underappreciated lifestyle perks.

Dr Michelsen has lived and worked in both Sydney and Denmark prior to his time at ARH. He was initially attracted to Canberra in 2014 for work, but has fallen for the charms of the city, feeling it has become more dynamic in the last 20 years whilst retaining some of its’ calm ambiance. Dr Michelsen plans to stay in the region at least until retirement. “There’s good schools, shops, cafes and restaurants, and nowhere is more than 20 minutes away, with very little traffic. Public transport is good, with bus or light tram services. And you’re no more than 15 minutes to bushland, and a couple of hours or less drive to beaches or snow fields,” he says. As an outdoor enthusiast, Dr Michelsen particularly enjoys the large array of bush and mountain tracks for running and mountain-biking within close proximity to the city. Other popular nearby “weekend getaway” locations include Jervis Bay, the Kangaroo Valley, and the cool climate wine and foodie hub of the Murrumbateman district. However, if you’re after more remote holiday destinations, the international airport lies within a 15 minute drive of the city centre!

Within the city itself, there is a wealth of quality family-friendly attractions, such as Questacon, the National Gallery and other museums, annual cultural events such as Floriade, and walks around Lake Burley Griffin. And with the most restaurants per capita of any location in Australia, you’ll never be struggling to find a good meal out!

Compared to national averages, Canberra unemployment rates are lower and the average income higher, meaning that partners of veterinarians should also be in a good position to find satisfying employment.

Ultimately, the new ARH Canberra facility appears ready to tick a lot of boxes for vets seeking a stable, stimulating and collaborative working environment, whilst being set in a location offering an enriching and pleasant lifestyle for both young professionals and families.

The team of ARH Canberra are poised, focused and ready to launch to the next level – are you?

For further information, check out the ARH Canberra website and click here to receive access to our Interview the Boss interview with ARH Canberra (held on August 4th)


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