Women in Innovation: Dr Bronwyn Orr, Walk In Clinic for Animals

Women in Innovation blog series.

We interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries. This week we spoke to Dr Bronwyn Orr, Co-founder of the Walk In Clinic for Animals.

Tell us about what you are working on.

In November 2022, we opened Australia’s first urgent care veterinary clinic here in Canberra. Called the Walk In Clinic for Animals, we operate in the space between daytime GP vet clinics and overnight emergency vet clinics. Australia, like most of the world, is experiencing a veterinary staff shortage, and both GP and emergency clinics are operating over capacity. We opened to try and relieve some of that pressure, as both business partners (Ash and Bron) worked in emergency clinics and saw the need for innovation with the current system to better serve patients, clients and the veterinary community. We operate on limited hours, 7pm-10:30pm every evening, and rent an existing daytime vet clinic to keep costs low.

Why is innovation important to you?

Our model of veterinary practice involves innovation at every level. When you’re faced with a wicked problem (in our case, the chronic shortage of veterinary professionals), you have to re-examine everything you do as an industry to see where the tension can be released. We have non-traditional staff (mostly mothers, who already work or provide primary care to children during the day), non-traditional hours (only open 3.5 hours a day), a non-traditional operating model (rent off an existing clinic by the hour, no appointments and strictly first-come-first-served consultations) and provide a new model of veterinary care to the community. As a result, we haven’t had any issues getting veterinary staff for our clinic.

What drives you to make a difference?

We want to find a solution that works for all of our stakeholders – pets, owners, staff and the wider veterinary community. We want to improve the situation for everyone – and these values drive our work. For pets, we want them to be able to receive excellent veterinary care when they need it. For owners, we want them to have peace of mind, veterinary services when they need it, with minimal waiting times and at a reasonable cost. For staff, we want them to have flexible working conditions at competitive pay scales that allow them to work around their lives. And for the veterinary community, we want them to be less stressed and keep clients in their ecosystem, even when they’re too busy to see them personally. We operate on a strictly no regular client basis, meaning all clients are referred back to their regular daytime GP clinic at the end of the consultation and we facilitate this by sending our histories to their regular vet. This allows us to work in partnership with the veterinary community, rather than compete.

Do you have any advice for getting more women into innovation and entrepreneurship?

The hardest thing about entrepreneurship is accepting the risk involved. My business partner and I were able to do this by keeping our day jobs, and starting the business around our other commitments. However, the benefits of business for women are huge. While the opportunity to open the Walk In Clinic for Animals was motivation enough for me, I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge my personal situation also factored in to my decision making. When Ash and I opened the clinic, I was 8 months pregnant. Lucky for me, Ash didn’t see my late pregnancy as an impediment! In fact, we had only be open for 2 weeks when, while I was closing up the clinic for the night, my waters broke. I drove myself to the hospital and a couple of days later, returned home with my new baby. Having the clinic and working the hours we do means I get to spend valuable time with my baby, and allows me to combine work and family time. I feel lucky to have been able to create a work/life that works for me.

What are you proud of right now?

As of April 1st, our clinic is now open 7 nights per week. We are thrilled to have a team of wonderful staff, and have treated more than 350 pets since opening in late November 2022. We are so excited to keep growing, and continue supporting our pets, clients, staff and veterinary community. As we fine tune the model here in Canberra, we continue to evaluate whether there is scope to take our clinic nationally, so watch this space!

Thanks for chatting, Bronwyn! Make sure to keep the Walk In Clinic for Animals in mind for your animal care needs!