VetHealth Advice about staying healthy and maintaining a good work-life balance in our profession.

Author: Australian Veterinary Association Ltd (AVA)

Veterinary science offers a stimulating and rewarding career, and many veterinarians find their work both satisfying and enjoyable.

But we all experience stress from time to time, and there are some common points in a veterinarian’s career when stress is high, and vets need to put some extra thought into taking care of themselves.

The information in this section offers some facts about some of the threats to the health and wellbeing of veterinarians, such as stressaddictionsgrief and lossdepressionanxiety and suicide.

There’s also simple advice about how to take steps to stay healthy, maintain a good work-life balance, and deal positively with conflict.

How the AVA can help

The AVA offers a number of programs and services to help you stay healthy and support you in your professional life.

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Where have all the vets gone? – Vet Practice Magazine

In researching for a proposal I have come across this great article by Vet Practice Magazine’s Merran White  – it outlines some of the issues our profession must find new solutions for really well. Notably quoting the very competent and knowledgeable Debbie Neutze, AVA who has focused on the profession and created the AVA Workforce Data since 2012. Great work – Vet Practice Magazine! (DrM)

Despite a steady supply of new vet graduates, practices across Australia are finding it hard to fill job vacancies. What is going on and what can be done about it? Merran White investigates

In the past decade, the number of Australian universities offering veterinary courses has jumped from four to seven; collectively, they churn out an estimated 500-550 graduates a year.

Even accounting for the fact that some are overseas students who return home post-graduation, you would think there would be enough vets to go around. Yet many practices are having trouble attracting suitable candidates to veterinary jobs.

For Dr Debbie Delahunty, owner and head vet of Horsham Veterinary Hospital in regional Victoria, recruiting vets to her small-animal practice was never an issue—until last year. And she is not alone; at the 2016 Australian Veterinary Business Association (AVBA) conference, where she hosted dozens of delegates at roundtables on recruitment, Dr Delahunty was “really surprised” at the number of city practice owners expressing similar problems.

“While [most] seeking new graduates have few issues filling positions, employers in some regional areas in SA, the ACT, Perth and outer Sydney metropolitan areas have reported difficulties finding suitable veterinarians with three to five years’ clinical experience seeking full-time employment,” confirms AVA policy manager Dr Debbie Neutze.

What’s causing the vet drought?

Several potential contributing factors have been proposed to explain the recent recruitment squeeze in regional and, increasingly, some urban practices. They include:agriculture,

l changing industry demographics—notably, more women entering the profession, which likely means more vets seeking work in city-based small-animal private practices; taking time off for child rearing (typically five to 10 years post-graduation), then transitioning to part-time/flexible hours;

  • a desire for better work/life balance, with vets less prepared to work long and irregular hours;
  • an ongoing dearth of vets with five-plus years’ experience working in regional (mixed and production-animal) practice, despite demand;
  • vets jettisoning clinical practice for more lucrative industry roles in pharmaceuticals, or pet food—or exiting the profession entirely.

Changing demographics and career paths

Since the 1990s, the gender make-up of the profession has shifted dramatically. The ‘Australian veterinary workforce review report’ (June 2013, AVA) estimates that the proportion of female vet graduates nationwide will likely “remain at above 70 per cent for the foreseeable future”; by 2022, the report predicts, female vets will comprise more than 60 per cent of Australia’s veterinary workforce.

“The effect of this on the pool of vets available for full-time practice will depend on the rate at which female vets enter the life stage where they have small children, the hours they are then willing to work, and for how long they remain unavailable for full-time practice,” states the AVA report.

Some researchers contend the influx of women could lead to an oversupply of vets in city small-animal practices and a corresponding undersupply of vets in non-metropolitan areas, “[based on] the assumption that female vets will be more likely to spend part of their career not working or working part-time [and] the belief that female vets are (partly as a result of anticipating childcare responsibilities) less interested in rural and production animal practice”.

The quest for work/life balance

The new generation of (predominantly female) vet grads is less likely to prioritise work over family time, leisure and sleep.

“The long, irregular hours many veterinarians work has long been an issue,” says Dr Neutze. “[But] where previously the veterinarian was the primary income earner, this now is often not the case. Many more recently graduated veterinarians are looking for more balance.”

Vets’ career paths are also shifting, notes Dr Neutze. “Previously, after three to five years as an employee in clinical practice, the next career step was to become a practice owner. [Now] more practices are owned by corporates and fewer graduates are interested in being tied to owning
a practice.

“This means more veterinarians […] will remain employees throughout their careers. They will be seeking higher financial returns, as employees, compared with those of the past. They’ll want to work in practices that offer these and other benefits, or—as a significant number are now deciding [to do]—leave clinical practice altogether.”

“Many more recently graduated veterinarians are looking for more balance.”—Dr Debbie Neutze, AVA policy manager

Vets who do stay will likely be seeking jobs that offer better work-life balance; proximity to urban centres; opportunities for specialist training/mentorship and career advancement; and—if larger paychecks aren’t forthcoming—compensatory perks (parking spots, paid study/family leave).

The issue of salary

Tegan McPherson, head of People and Culture at RSPCA Victoria, thinks money is the root cause of many recruitment problems.

“Our experience is that veterinarians with greater levels of experience, five years-plus, are more difficult to recruit,” she says. “We believe it’s a pay issue. [According to Australian taxation statistics], the average total income for veterinarians in 2012-13 was $79,152, compared to those with similar degrees, such as dentists, at $144,749, and medical GPs at $153,7003.”

Veterinarian remuneration is a key component of AVA’s five strategic priorities to ensure the profession’s economic sustainability, she adds.

“It probably is about the money—and other perks,” concurs AVA’s Dr Neutze. “If practices are to attract and keep experienced veterinarians, it may be that they’ll need to review what is being offered.”

Regional cringe

Retaining experienced vets in rural, particularly production-animal practices, is an ongoing challenge.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) academics, J. Pratley and K. Abbott, cited in the AVA’s workforce review report, concluded in their own study that despite an oversupply of vets that is set to increase in coming years, rural mixed and production-animal practices are under-serviced. They further found that “job advertisements for rural vets, continued pressure from livestock industries seeking an increase in supply, and the experience of Charles Sturt University’s graduates converge to confirm that there is a shortage of rural vets willing to undertake practice with production animals.”

It is hoped that initiatives aimed at boosting the number of vets seeking rural and ag-based careers—such as CSU vet school’s preferential intake of students with farming and country backgrounds—will help redress regional shortages and take advantage of the reported demand for vet services in production-animal areas, notably intensive-livestock operations such as dairy farms.

While some contend more female vets will exacerbate the regional vet drought, CSU says its female vet graduates are as keen on production-animal work as the guys.

Only time (and follow-up data) will tell whether this new crop of ‘true-blue’ vets stays in regional practice beyond the first few years.

To read more please continue at….. Where have all the vets gone? – Vet Practice Magazine

Board nominations are open | Australian Veterinary Association

Ready to steer your professional association towards its 100th year?

Board nominations are open

The AVA is seeking nominations for its Board. Can you join a team of leaders and represent your colleagues at the highest level in your association?“If you are interested in helping our profession, joining the Board is a great way to do that. You soon learn what matters to your fellow members and it is a privilege to be a voice for them,” AVA President, Robert Johnson said.Here are some tips and information to help you decide if joining the AVA Board might be the right thing for you now or in the future.

How the Board is formed

The AVA has nine directors. Six are elected directly by the general membership and three are nominated and appointed by the three largest special interest groups (ACV, EVA and ASAVA). Each director has a 3-year term, with a maximum of two successive terms. The President, Vice President and Treasurer are elected each year by the Board.Nominations are invited for two elected positions on the Board of Directors for a 3-year term to take office in May 2017. These elected positions in 2017 are in addition to a position to be nominated by Australian Cattle Veterinarians.

Who should nominate?

The first requirement is that candidates have prior experience as an office holder within a special interest group or division committee.“To be a good Board member, you need to be a good listener and then you need to take the information given to you and be a good advocate for the profession,” Board Director, Dr James Gilkerson said.Some additional skills and experience that are useful include being a member of community organisations, being a member of other boards and committees, a commitment to animal health and welfare, and the ability to prepare reports for the AVA Board.With a lot of the work involving the AVA’s groups and committees, communication and team work are key skills to bring to the AVA Board.“It helps to be patient, diplomatic and to communicate clearly. Directors need to have a broad knowledge of the different groups within the AVA and how they work together,” Dr Johnson said.

How do I nominate?

The Board has a Charter and a Code of Conduct that outline the expectations and operational details of the Board. All election candidates need to agree to abide by the Charter, the Code and the AVA Constitution before their nominations are accepted.You can request a copy of the Director’s information package (including the nomination form) from Amanda Webster: or 02 9431 5064.If you have questions or concerns, please contact Company Secretary, John Robb, on 02 9431 5040 or or Nominations must be received by 24 February 2017.

What does the Board do?

Directors have legal responsibility for the Australian Veterinary Association Limited (ACN 008 522 852) under the Corporations Act 2001 and they undertake mandatory training to help them understand and fulfil their legal responsibilities.These include ensuring that the AVA complies with all aspects of the law, risks are managed appropriately and all parts of the organisation are doing what they should be doing for the benefit of members.The Board sets the direction for the AVA, makes the big strategic decisions and ensures effective risk management.The Board appoints the Chief Executive Officer and is responsible for managing his or her performance. The CEO is responsible for managing the AVA’s employees and ensuring the Board’s strategy is put into action.

Marcia Balzer

National Public Affairs Manager

This article appeared in the December 2016 issue of the Australian Veterinary Journal

Source: Ready to steer your professional association towards its 100th year? Board nominations are open | Australian Veterinary Association