In the last 12 to 18 months, the veterinary shortage has continued to bite in Australia and is now affecting practices in the cities as well as rural and regional areas. The results of the Lincoln Institute survey in Australia have been in the news this month ( Link to SBS report) , and Kookaburra Vet Employment has recently been approached by multiple news outlets for interviews and comments ( link to ABC Sunshine Coast article )
A BVA (British Veterinary Association) and University of Exeter study in the UK released late in 2018 found that 37% of vets were actively thinking about leaving the profession (1,250 vets surveyed ). 59% of vets said they were either very stressed or somewhat stressed at work. A smaller Kookaburra Vet Employment survey from 2017 of just 336 vets showed that 17% of associates thought they would have left the profession in the next 5 years.
The suicide rate of vets in Australia has been found to be 4 times higher than the general population – that’s one vet every 12 weeks. Here at Kookaburra we feel the impact of losing a veterinary colleague way too frequently.
So is there a shortage of vets – and is it due to vets quitting the profession?
In absolute terms looking at the widely reported figures in Australia, NZ, the UK and the USA for numbers of vets compared to numbers of pets – no, there shouldn’t be a shortage. So why are there so many veterinary vacancies? There are between 11 and 12,000 vets registered in Australia, and there are approximately 2,200 veterinary practices.
This time 5 years ago, in 2014, Kookaburra Vet Employment had 170 jobs listed for vets, and 20% of those jobs were suitable for new graduates (the clinic could provide the support and training needed for a new or recent grad). It was taking 8-9 weeks to fill a vet job.
At the moment (January 2019) Kookaburra Vet Employment has 437 current vet jobs listed, and 34% of those will now consider a new graduate. Vacancies are being listed for an average of 13 weeks. However, in the last 3 months, 11% of vacancies listed with us have been removed because the clinic either gave up looking, or restructured their clinic staff to cope. Some practices on our books have been advertising continuously for over 3 years without filling their vacancy.
So what impact does pay rates have?
Kookaburra did a small survey (including vets and vet nurses) in 2018 and found that out of 167 respondents, 73% had not had a pay rise in the last 12 months. Out of 235 respondents, 70 % said that a pay rise would make them reconsider if they were considering looking for another job, and 21% said that it may make them reconsider.
Most vets earn in the range of $60,000 to $90,000 pa.
An interesting study, again from the BVA and University of Exeter, released in 2018, investigated gender bias in the veterinary profession ( link to BVA Employers’ Study 2018) . The profession is becoming increasingly feminised as more than 50% of recent graduates are female. The VetFutures study surveyed 260 employers and managers. 42% believed there was no gender discrimination in the veterinary profession – but then that same section when tested in the survey offered males a higher salary than females. Could the feminisation of the profession be linked to stagnating pay rates?
As an employment agency we hear from both employers and job seekers.
For employers, retaining suitably qualified staff seems to be a challenge, however, we have found that very many clinics have expanded dramatically over the last 10 years or so, and have sought to employ more vets. Do they really have an increased workload and associated practice income, or are they trying to create a better work/life balance? Without an increase in practice income, new vacancies cannot be supported. Kookaburra has also seen a number of new practices set up in areas already well supplied by vets – including private practices, house call practices, as well as corporate practices and in-pet store clinics. This has seemed to outstrip closure of clinics.
Associate vets are looking for a practice where they are paid well according to the work they do, where they know their work is valued by colleagues and clients, where they have accessible role models and mentors, access to and support for continuing education, a good work/life balance, and a modern well equipped workplace with trained supportive staff. Practices that provide this are likely to have less trouble recruiting, and more success at retaining the staff in whom they have made an investment.
Kookaburra Veterinary Employment
This information includes the views and opinions of Kookaburra Veterinary Employment and is of a general nature only. Factual information is believed to be correct at the time of writing, however, should not be relied upon and any person should confirm details with the relevant authorities and through their own research prior to acting on any of the suggestions in this article.