Jocelyn Birch Baker
Veterinarians were added to the immigration priority list.
But: do we really need them?
Why would it be easier to get a veterinarian from overseas, when there are veterinarians here in Australia who would like to work in their chosen profession but are being unfairly treated and so leaving the profession.
There is a worldwide shortage of vets. Every country is looking for more vets.
There are only a few overseas vet degrees recognised here in Australia and so upskilling and examination of many vets will be required.
It is a huge effort for a vet with a family to immigrate. I know this, my family of 4 immigrated in 1969. There is such a culture shock, loss of family ties and support. There is the need to find accommodation which is at a premium here at the moment. Finding work that is suitable is also difficult. We need vets out in the rural and regional areas which immigrating vets may not choose over the cities, where there is schooling, career opportunities and social activities are abundant.
Vets all over the world are struggling with the ongoing culture and expectations of being available 24/7. Often because vets are empathetic people and cannot knowingly let an animal suffer. They are manipulated into working for nothing or under very stressful conditions.
Vets are expected to treat a patient when the owner has no funds, this is unworkable. Vets are also expected to work a low wage compared to their peers with degrees and to work long hours and after hours, without fair renumeration or adequate rest.
Vets everywhere are looking for flexible work in workplaces that are empathetic, not only to the patient and client but also to the team working under sometimes very difficult situations.
Eighty percent of vet graduates are women now. Women have a different career structure to the career design of the past. They are looking for flexibility, and when they get it, they can bring their very best veterinary selves to the workplace.
So, if we look at our profession here in Australia, we can find our own solutions.
Let’s work from the proposition that we do not have a veterinary shortage.
This means that we need to look at what we are expecting vets to do. If you are an owner/ manager, get a practice manager. You need to work on the big picture and leadership areas and your veterinary area. If you are a vet, get your nurse to do the nursing, preparing patients and non-veterinary jobs. We must have had too many vets previously as I used to scrub cages!
When you are looking for a vet. Think about what they are looking for and market to them. As always, make sure that you deliver on your promises.
Provide a workplace that supports your team, every, single, moment. Ensure the clinic values are everybody’s values. That they are utilised every day.
Think about the FACT that eighty per-cent of vets are going to be women soon and they have a different career structure to the one we are trying to force them into now. They need flexibility due to biology and culture. They are the care giver of the family here in Australia. They need to have time to have children and look after them. This puts a break in their career and often guilt in their hearts. They want to be the best mother and the best vet.
They may need upskilling and practice when they return after a break. Much less than a vet from overseas would need.
Do not devalue them when they return, if they were up for a promotion, wage increase, continuing education, give it to them! Whether they are working casual, part time of fill time. Whatever the hours that they commit to your clinic is wonderful. Give them autonomy! They are often experienced vets with an incredible collection of life skills.
I have found these vet omen here in our town, a regional town. They work collaboratively, kindly and with autonomy. Due to our communication and culture, we have set a high standard of health care for our patients and each team member reaches it, as each is supported with knowledge, time, confidence and of course autonomy and accountability.
I would suggest, that instead of trying to get vets to leave their country when their country needs them, to leave their family and friends, culture and career plans, we should start supporting the vets we already have here in Australia.