Vets are generally positive about the future of the UK veterinary profession, with 59% saying they are very or fairly optimistic in a new survey of more than 600 veterinary surgeons and students.
But vets also highlighted the need to reduce stress – the single highest priority goal for the future, with nearly a fifth (19%) of respondents choosing it from a long list of options – and secure greater public recognition for the profession.
The survey was carried out as part of Vet Futures, a joint project from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to help the profession prepare for, and shape, its own future. The survey, undertaken through BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession panel, tested findings from the early research phase of Vet Futures, explored vets’ attitudes towards their profession, and asked them to prioritise the key issues and rank some of the major threats and opportunities for the profession.
Priority goals for veterinary surgeons varied according to different areas of work and seniority in the profession. However, an overriding and uniting theme from the findings is the pursuit of recognition for the role vets play across the board. Vets’ perception of the veterinary contribution to non-clinical roles, such as research, food supply and security, and public health, is high, but they don’t believe the general public values these roles.
And looking ahead to the future, four of the respondents’ top five goals for 2030 relate to recognition:
> Veterinary leadership on animal welfare
> Respected and valued role in society
> Valued role for vets in education on responsible animal ownership
> Higher profile on animal-related issues that affect public health
In relation to the “respected and valued role of vets in society”, the Vet Futures national ICM opinion poll of more than 2,000 members of the public found that 94% of the general public trusts the veterinary profession generally or completely.
In terms of their own careers, 59% felt that they had met or exceeded their expectations, leaving 41% saying their careers had only met some expectations (38%) or not met any (3%). Amongst this large minority of dissatisfied vets the reasons for their responses included: few opportunities for progression, pay, and working hours.
The survey also asked vets to rank threats and opportunities for the profession and found that respondents considered the three greatest opportunities to be:
Increasing expectations around customer service – seen as the greatest area of opportunity
The structure and content of undergraduate courses – vets want training to reflect the real breadth of career choices and allow students to specialise earlier
Public health concerns relating to animal disease – vets are eager to increase awareness and understanding of their contributions to public health
Commenting on the findings, BVA President John Blackwell said:
“It’s heartening to see that, at the moment, the veterinary glass is half full for many. But we know that younger vets are disproportionately represented amongst those who are feeling less positive about their own careers, which is a real concern for future generations. There is clearly work to be done, through Vet Futures, for the profession to think innovatively in order to tackle some of their concerns around career progression, pay and working hours, as well as stress.
“The good news is that, through the Vet Futures UK-wide roadshow and our online engagement, we have been hearing new and interesting ideas for the future. We want to hear from as many vets, vet nurses and others who have a stake in the future of the profession and I would encourage people to get involved through our ‘Veterinary Vision’ essay competition or via the Vet Futures website.”
RCVS President Stuart Reid added:
“There is a lot for the veterinary profession to be proud of but the Vet Futures survey shows that vets are concerned the general public doesn’t understand or value the variety of roles we undertake outside clinical practice.
“We have also heard through our guest blog that vets working outside of practice sometimes feel that they are treated as second-class vets.
“Through the Vet Futures project RCVS and BVA aim to address the lack of public awareness about the variety of roles undertaken by members of the profession, as well as increase understanding and access to these varied career opportunities amongst the profession.
“We want to enable all veterinary surgeons to not only feel optimistic, but confident in their future.”