‘Challenge of keeping vets happy, productive and sane is getting harder...’ - Veterinary Practice
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‘Challenge of keeping vets happy, productive and sane is getting harder…’

Veterinary Practice reports on two of the sessions in the management stream at VetsNorth 2016 relating to the recruitment and retention of staff.

to recruit experienced and capable
veterinary assistants – so what is the

Perhaps they should realise that if
they are not going to find fully formed
clinicians in the job market, then they
should be growing their
own, managers attending
VetsNorth 2016 were

Alison Lambert, of
the Onswitch marketing
consultancy, said
practices should adopt
a marketing strategy
for the recruitment and
retention of staff, as well
as their clients. “The
challenge of keeping vets
happy, productive and sane is getting
harder – it sometimes feels that there
is a generalised malaise within the

Practice managers need to appreciate
that a new graduate may not have
the surgical experience that previous
generations of vets may have had when
they applied for their first job.

That is impossible with the numbers
of students being trained each year,
which has outgrown the numbers of
patients available locally to work on
during their training. But students do
have other advanced skills useful to the
practice and with the right support any
deficiencies can be remedied.

Mrs Lambert said the results of
surveys on what new graduates
are looking for in their first job are
unequivocal. “They are looking for
a clinical mentor, back-up when
carrying out new and difficult surgical
procedures and the opportunity to
develop their own caseload – they don’t want you to hold
their hands.”

Older practitioners,
however, must
understand that the
“millennial generation”
has very different
attitudes towards work
and life compared with
their predecessors. They
regard their veterinary
career as a job rather
than a vocation and do not want to work the long hours that
used to be the norm. So time off is
considered much more important than
a large salary when looking at potential

Indeed, those practices offering
better than expected salaries to new
graduates are likely to be viewed with
suspicion rather than relish: “Their
response is likely to be ‘What is wrong
with the job if they have to pay that
much?’” Mrs Lambert warned.

Other factors have changed over the
past couple of decades. One has been
the geographical location of the first
job. New graduates today are much
more insistent that they want to work in areas where they have
established networks
of family and friends
rather than move to an
unfamiliar part of the

They are also much
more specific about
the type of work they
are looking for – few
want to go into mixed
practice and those that are keen on
farm work will often specify the type of
animals they want to deal with – dairy
rather than beef cattle, for example, she

Mrs Lambert recognised that both
these factors make it more difficult
to attract candidates for traditional
mixed practice jobs in areas outside
the immediate catchment areas of the
veterinary schools. “So if practices want
to make contact with the right sort of
candidates, they have to go fishing in
the right pool,” she explained.

Significant change in

The way that the current generation of
graduates communicates with the world
has changed significantly, she said. New
graduates are unlikely to go looking for
jobs in the veterinary press in the way
that generations of their predecessors
have done. Instead they are likely to
learn about job opportunities online.

A 20-something’s digital network
will be much more inclusive than the friendship groups
formed by her own
generation, Mrs
Lambert said. Young
graduates will be happy
to communicate across
the generational divide
in ways that would have
been alien to her 20-plus
years ago.

Links established
through social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn will be
increasingly important ways to
make initial contact with veterinary
undergraduates and find out whether
they are interested in – and suitable
candidates for – a particular job.

Friendships developed early in the
veterinary undergraduate career or
even earlier are likely to be influential
in shaping a new graduate’s decisions
on the direction of their postgraduate
career. Initial contacts established
online can then be cemented through
offers of EMS placements in the
later undergraduate years, when both
sides can assess whether the practice/
student is right for them.

One issue that has not changed
across the generations of veterinary
undergraduates is their perennial
impecuniousness. Offering a few
days of paid work as a stand-in
receptionist is a useful way of helping
the student while also assessing their
client-care and communications skills,
she suggested.

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