How do people learn to work together

"We have to learn to work more closely together"

Daniel Lüthi

Freelance journalist and photographer, media trainer, Bern

Outside in the cool autumn fog lies the Grosse Moos, inside it is tropically hot and humid. It says “Welcome to Belize”, but we're near Kerzers. There are still many butterflies in the Papiliorama, yes, Olivier Glardon is a veterinarian here, but it has nothing to do with the insects that gave this place its name. “I don't have to mend your antennas,” he says and laughs.

Coati and quill animal

There are about as many bats as butterflies here, a spring tamarin and night monkeys. The coati is in pain and the quill has a skin infection. Glardon came today mainly because of them, but as always, to deliver medicines from his practice. He also has antibiotics with him now and then, yes, but he is very reluctant to use them. "An antibiotic is always stronger than a herbal remedy," says Glardon, but whenever possible he treats his four-legged patients with alternatives to conventional medicine. For example, a honey mixture is currently helping the quilk against the inflammation on the tail.

Nothing is reminiscent of a clinical workplace. Fish and ducks swim in the pond, the colors of the toucan glow from the lush green of the “Xopol Forest”. As a rule, Glardon examines and treats the animals in the enclosure, in their familiar environment, "transport is always stressful for them". And so today he and the responsible animal keeper go from behind, via the service entrance, into the dwelling of his patients. There is only a little excitement for a moment, the vet initially has to deal with the deep branches that are obstructing his path.

The zookeeper lures the white-nosed coati with food, while Olivier Glardon is able to convince himself that the pain medication administered has worked. The second coati has lost weight and is unsteady on its feet. Glardon wants to find out whether the pancreas is okay and orders that the feces be examined. "How is the fruit bat?" He asks in between; a fracture on his finger had to be stabilized with a splint.

Medicine for animals or for humans?

As a teenager, it was clear to Olivier Glardon that he wanted to study veterinary and not human medicine. «My great-grandfather had a farm. He and my grandfather gave me a lot about animals. " It was more of a coincidence that he switched from farm animals to small animals after completing his studies. "I was fascinated by teaching and working with students."

Where does the veterinarian see the biggest differences to the medical work with humans? “You can't talk about different therapy variants with animals,” he explains. “This, for example, distinguishes us from human medicine. We always bear full responsibility, and that is sometimes a burden. " What he particularly appreciates about his job is the practical work outside, like here in this zoo. “This is medicine that still has something to do with craftsmanship, in both thinking and doing,” says Glardon.

On the other hand, isn't it often a luxury medicine that he practices? Let us think of certain horses, dogs or cats. Or zoo animals. What about the need, the urgency? "I am aware of the problem," replies Glardon. “But: whether a zoo like this is needed is another question on a different level. If it already exists, however, it also needs medicine that is adapted to these animals. " Now Glardon turns to his great specialty, complementary medicine: "Especially in the zoo it is advisable to work with non-conventional methods, because these are originally wild animals with a different immunity and a different healing power." With acupuncture or phytotherapy, for example, he works regularly and successfully, as he emphasizes. Behavioral aspects are also central to him - with the animal and its owners. "Injuries to horses, for example, often have to do with the rider, and sometimes with the farrier." Here Glardon identifies another difference to human medicine: “A person is either healthy or sick, there is nothing in between - especially from the perspective of insurance companies. Subjective symptoms or silent dysfunctions do not officially exist, this is different in veterinary medicine. "

To person

Dr. med. vet. Olivier Glardon was born in Yverdon in 1953. He studied veterinary medicine at the University of Bern. In 1988 he wrote his dissertation. 1980–1987 he completed further training in small animal medicine. After further training in France, China and the USA, he acquired the certificate of proficiency in animal acupuncture in 1982. In 1988 he opened his private practice in Yverdon and Sainte-Croix, where he continues to work in the fields of cardiology, behavioral medicine and non-conventional medicine. From 2010–2018 he headed the accreditation and quality assurance department at the Federal Office of Public Health. He has been the veterinarian of the Papiliorama in Kerzers since 2016 and president of the Society of Swiss Veterinarians since the beginning of this year. He is also a lecturer at the Universities of Bern and Zurich. Olivier Glardon is married and has four children. He lives in Essertines above Yverdon.

The big common problem

What veterinarians and human physicians have in common is the great concern about antibiotic resistance and the need to fight against it. «During our medical studies we were trained that medication is the most important part of a treatment. We based everything on this potential. Getting out of this way of thinking takes time. " For a long time the discussion was like a black peter's game, agriculture, human and veterinary medicine tried to blame each other for the big problem. And for too long there has only been talk of the use of antibiotics in animals, “that annoyed us veterinarians. Even today we are of the opinion that human medicine should do more to combat antibiotic resistance. "

Awareness had to be sharpened even more, guidelines had to be drawn up and developments had to be monitored more closely, for example in the case of a bladder infection. Incidentally, a database that documents the consumption of antibiotics is not only needed in veterinary medicine. But just: back and forth and against each other do not bring anything, emphasizes Glardon. "We have to learn to work more closely together." Bloss: Especially in the field of livestock, interests would sometimes contradict each other. “In the course of factory farming, the interests of the animals were brought into line with those of the economy. Fortunately, animal welfare is more of a priority today. "

In addition, the sale of medicines made up part of the income of veterinarians, “Visits and advice do not cover costs. And we don't get any insurance money. " It is therefore important that farmers undertake to have their animals checked regularly and not only call the vet when an animal is sick.

Veterinary medicine and euthanasia

If the illness or injury is too bad, a veterinarian can put an animal to sleep. “In contrast to human medicine, euthanasia is an everyday thing for us,” says Olivier Glardon. "In this regard, animals have a privilege over us humans."

At the same time, however, it also means that veterinarians have comparatively easy access to the relevant medication. Apparently there are no suicide figures from this profession. But: "Veterinarians and medical practitioners also share a strong commitment to their profession, and this can lead to a great deal of stress."

Especially in the individual practices, the pressure and thus the risk of burnout are enormous, says Olivier Glardon. "Working less than 60 percent is unthinkable here." But the job description is changing rapidly. "The independent individual practice is being phased out." There are increasing group practices that are networked with one another. And it is increasingly important to think entrepreneurially and to look for niches. "A veterinarian who specializes in reptiles, for example, certainly has a future."

Olivier Glardon himself is a very busy man. He works as a veterinarian in various places, he teaches at the universities in Zurich and Bern, and he has been president of his specialist society since the beginning of this year. Nevertheless, he seems calm, relaxed and satisfied. How does he do it? “You can train to recharge your energy,” he says with a smile. Glardon also makes it very conscious in everyday life: by collecting old furniture, restoring it and selling it on a brocante. Or in his practice, with a cat that purrs. Or here in the Papiliorama with the old toucan, who sits serenely on a branch and just seems to be enjoying the moment.


Photos: Daniel Lüthi

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