British Vets Reveal Career Fears

A survey finds that 10 percent just starting out may decide to walk away.

Regrets? They’ve had a few.

A survey conducted on behalf of the British Veterinary Association and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons discovered that 1 in 10 young veterinarians contemplate leaving the profession and that optimism about the industry’s future declines even before graduation.

The findings—based on online questioning of nearly 900 students and 1,973 veterinarians in the first eight years of practice—were not all negative. Half of the graduates said their careers had met or exceeded expectations.

Nevertheless, the results of the Vet Futures survey should be a wakeup call, said BVA President John Blackwell, BVSc, MRCVS.

“The drop-off in career satisfaction for vets during this crucial first eight years in practice is something we can’t afford to ignore,” Dr. Blackwell said. “It points to frustration over career development opportunities and dissatisfaction with support available in practice.

“For the veterinary profession to remain sustainable, and an attractive career choice for the best and brightest, we need to address these issues with some urgency.”

The changes may have to start in veterinary school, the survey found. Only 17 percent of veterinarians working for five to eight years thought their degree had prepared them well.

Young practitioners suggested a greater focus in veterinary school on stress management, personal development, work-life balance, and business and finance skills.

“We clearly need to address the disconnect between expectation and reality for many recent graduates,” said Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons President Bradley Viner, BVetMed, MS, MRCVS.

Veterinary students may have second thoughts soon after enrollment.

Eighty percent of students through Year 3 were optimistic about the future of the U.K. veterinary profession. The number dropped to 67 percent of older students, 64 percent of recent graduates and 55 percent of those working at least five years.

Nearly half of all students said they wanted to become a practice owner or partner. But among graduates exposed to the realities of the profession, the desire dropped to 25 percent.

“The decline in appetite to become a practice owner or partner once vets enter the workplace has significant implications for the sustainability of existing models of independent practice,” the report noted. “A better understanding is needed of the reasons why aspirations for ownership decline so sharply once vets enter the workplace.

“The fact that 51 percent would like to see more teaching at vet school on business and finance skills suggest a lack of confidence in running a business.”

When it came to their future, 44 percent of graduates expected to stay put. Nearly a quarter planned to find another job in the same field and 13 percent were open to working in a different veterinary field.

Ten percent of graduates—including 16 percent of equine practitioners—were considering ending their veterinary careers.

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