Saturday 9 April 2022

Veterinarians should be apprentice-trained and the profession less degree-orientated

NEWS AND COMMENT: There is a shortage of applicants for veterinary positions in the UK and as a consequence the profession has decided to reposition its status downwards (I would argue) in order to accept people with lesser qualifications and to attract a wider pool of potential applicants. That's my interpretation. And if I am correct, it is a good thing. There are some great potential vets who lack the academic background who can't get onto the ladder. Academic qualifications should not be a bar to individuals who are well suited and qualified in other ways.

It should be easier to become a vet to attract from a wider pool
Vet a work. Image in public domain.

I feel that veterinarians have for years wanted to be at the same status as human doctors. It's why they call themselves doctors. And their education is as challenging as that of doctors. But it seems to me that the amount of money in the profession is less than can be achieved as a doctor. This certainly applies in the UK because doctors are paid by the NHS which is taxpayer funded.

And in the US, it also seems to me that objectional operations like declawing only exist because vets are chasing money. This indicates that they feel they are undervalued and underpaid. The profession should be downgraded and become more artisan and less academic and less degree-orientated.

Case study: Bridey Shawyer, who is now in her final year at Nottingham University on a veterinary course said: "My advice for teachers and careers advisers would be if someone tells you they want to be a vet, and you don't think they are quite getting the grades they need, find ways to help them improve this".  She got to university through a gateway course which allowed to do get there but coming from an alternative route to A-levels. It's an indication of that a good potential veterinarian might not be quite so gifted academically as is currently required and therefore the requirements are misplaced. The profession needs to bring in people who are great with their hands, great with people and animals and passionate about animal welfare but not necessarily academically gifted.

Your typical general practitioner might be paid £200,000 annually in the UK. Whereas veterinarians are paid privately and cat and dog owners watch their pennies. They are reluctant to take their companion animal to a veterinarian for the obvious reasons: it is a troublesome process and it's expensive.

But in vets feel hard done by I sense because they don't get the reward that they feel that they deserve when bearing in mind the challenging route in terms of training. This is why the educational qualifications in order to get onto a veterinary degree course have been reduced. You don't need straight A's any more all that is the plan to be introduced.

And vet schools will no longer use the quality of the personal statement in their application because they feel that affluent people are able to get help in completing that part of their application. This works against good candidates who are not in the affluent classes which narrows the pool.

Currently, the veterinary profession is considered to be a very challenging goal for your average student. And the British Veterinary Association (BVA) feel that children are being provided with out-of-date advice about entering the profession which is unduly pessimistic.

Students were not predicted to gain high grades in their A-levels should not give up the aim of becoming a veterinarian because there are different pathways to achieving their goal. The BVA say that "different pathways are available" and these include "gateway programs and foundation years". These require lower entry grades.

And they want people who have failed on an earlier application to private schools to reapply and they will not be prejudiced in that second application.

The BVA want people who have had work experience in any area as opposed to specifically gaining skills and work experience at veterinary practices. This because the work of a vet is people orientated. It is customer facing. Clearly, the BVA want to widen the pool from which they can attract potential veterinarians in order to fill these vacancies.

It seems to me that gradually over the years some youngsters who wanted to become veterinarian have been turned off. And I wonder whether this is partly because that there is not enough money in the profession for males bearing in mind the challenges.

And running a private practice is very hard work if you combine the administration with the medicine. Perhaps an independent veterinary practitioner finds the job too demanding and the rewards are not commensurate with these demands. This appears to have been fed back down the line to potential applicants. Independent vets are selling up to chains to rid themselves of admin duties and the worry or running a business.

There are alternative jobs waiting for people so why work these long hours in a very demanding job for pay that can be more easily gained elsewhere? Also, I understand that the profession is being rapidly populated by women and it seems that women find the profession more attractive than men nowadays. This appears to be money orientated decision-making. Women historically are less demanding in terms of pay than men.

Malcolm Morley, junior vice president of the BVA said that people have a wrong perception about the profession because sometimes they are told that the not the right person. He added: 

"It used to be 20 applicants per place, but it's about to per place now. Veterinary schools take into account a candidate's educational background. Students without typical A-level backgrounds can make really excellent veterinary students. We are seeing an increase in the number of places at that school. But there's a really significant workforce shortage, it's the main issue facing the profession."

The Veterinary Schools Council said that they want to attract people from underrepresented groups particularly minority ethnic candidates. Lord Trees a professor of veterinary parasitology, speaking in the House of Lords, said that the profession was struggling with recruitment and retention. He urged the government to provide more core funding to train vets.

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