Faculty, staff paid up to 500% less than Locum vets; Locum vets report frustrating experiences

The College of Veterinary Medicine is paying temporary veterinarians, referred to as Locum, up to 500% more than it pays its employees to fill coverage gaps created by an unmitigated mass exodus of faculty and staff due to a worsening toxic work environment.  This is creating tension and frustration among the remaining regular staff as their workload and responsibilities increase as the size of the team decreases given an inability of the College to recruit - and keep - new members of the medical team.

"Everyone has left, and there aren't exactly a bunch of experienced people knocking down the doors to work here anymore," said one person who feels the team is being asked to take on more responsibilities than it can handle. "How screwed up is this: if our vets just quit and sign back up as Locums they can make $10,000 a week and tell the College 'hey this is how we want things.'  But the reward for not doing that is to work more, deal with all the crap and negativity, make 1/10th of that, and get blamed for everything."

Locum veterinarians report frustrations of their own working at CVM.  One had significant concerns about the medical standards and practice of the Teaching Hospital - particularly the ICU team - after working a shift there, including:

  • Wrong drugs administrated to the wrong patients despite clear and repeated instruction
  • Charging Level III care when that level of care is not being delivered
  • Catheters being chewed out because staff did not put on e-collars
  • Repeatedly delayed and missed treatments
  • Overall lack of attention to detail & poor record-keeping

Concerns and experiences like these were echoed by other Locum veterinarians, some of whom now refuse to take shifts at the Teaching Hospital despite the high pay: "No honest veterinarian would work at a place where the standards are that low, I don't care how much money you pay" said one person who has experienced these issues first-hand.

These circumstances appear to be creating a self-fulfilling downward spiral, where a toxic culture and poor medical standards are driving away staff and blunting the ability to recruit new staff, causing large gaps in medical coverages which force the Dean to bring in Locums who increasingly require higher pay in order to work at CVM, but who also have negative experiences and eventually refuse shifts.

Dean Risco consistently expresses his belief that the staffing crisis at CVM is because Oklahoma is an undesirable place for veterinarians to live and work, and because the shortage of veterinarians nationwide is somehow worse at CVM than anywhere else in North America.

"Those are just excuses, Oklahoma and a vet shortage has nothing to do with 50 people walking out the door in two years," said one person with first-hand experience of the difficulty that the mass exodus of faculty and staff has caused. The issue, they say, is that CVM is known across the veterinary industry as a difficult place to work, with a poor culture and low standards. "Not a great slogan, is it?" this person quipped, "But seriously, it's the truth."

"It all just puts more pressure on those who choose to stay, which makes the environment at work just worse and worse," said one person with direct knowledge of the current staffing challenges at CVM. "People definitely talk about the pay disparity, like who would be happy to do the same work and make way less every week?"

What opportunities are there to improve things? "I can't say that out loud, are you crazy? I don't want to get fired," this person concluded.