If you talk to any vet out there, I can almost guarantee it wasn’t an offhand decision in their final year of high school that took them to vet school. The dream would have taken place years before. If you ask any vet, there will be a moment in their childhood; an experience or situation, that led them to say “I want to be a vet”. They then had to work hard at school and university to realise their dream and for the majority this became their focus and passion.
How sad is it then, that after ten years of being a vet only 60% of people are re-registering? What has happened to the fire and the passion over these years?
I surveyed 205 veterinarians and they have provided me with a lot of information about the good side and the down side to rural practice in New Zealand. I themed these up into 6 main areas:
- The job – the clients, the variety, after hours and job satisfaction
- The practice – the people, the culture and flexibility
- The lifestyle of a rural veterinarian
- The production animal industry- the changing role of rural vets
- Wellness – a look into stress, anxiety, mental health and wellbeing
- Other things that help retain vets – the side comments that I couldn’t ignore
It is up to all veterinary business owners and managers to ensure they do everything possible within their power to retain vets. Without young vets staying on and potentially they themselves investing in practices, what will the local veterinary practice look like in 30 years’ time? A few big corporate clinics over the whole country? Lay companies doing the ‘technician’ work and the odd ambulatory vet patching up the problems?
The main findings from my research were that although we cannot expect anyone to stay in their initial job after graduating there are fundamental problems within the rural veterinary profession that do need attention to help with retention issues.
Practices need to have good people work for them, who are supportive and aware and enhance the culture of the practice. There is a need for good strong leaders that also show understanding. Employers need to be innovative, flexible and adaptable; and ensure the healthy well being of all their employees.