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Vet Students Help Solve Regional Workforce Crisis

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Vet Students Help Solve Regional Workforce Crisis

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In this week’s VetCrunch news roundup, we discuss ways to address the rural veterinary shortage in Australia which might well work for lots of places around the world. Plus we raise concern for dog breeding in the UK, and learn about an update in care guidelines for shelter veterinarians in the US. 

A recent survey, run by The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), has revealed that 100% of Australia’s veterinary students (who partook in the study) would consider working in rural or regional practices – where there is a current veterinary shortage – if their HECS debt was wiped. 

The survey comes after the Education Minister, Jason Clare’s, announced that 2000 Australians’ remote teachers could have their debts cut by $35,000.

Findings from the survey offer a clear solution to the current regional veterinary shortage, which is leaving many communities without access to essential veterinary care. 

AVA president Dr Bronwyn Orr said:

“We are pleased to see the Federal Government make further progress that supports the education and health care of Australians in the regions,” 

“But it’s high time that we saw a similar level of interest and support for our veterinarians. 

“Vets are vital to the success of the agricultural sector, which contributed $71 billion to the Australian economy in 2020-21. 

“The current skills shortage of vets in the regions is crippling the industry, and if urgent support is not delivered, we may see the rural and regional veterinary workforce collapse,” Dr. Orr added.

“That’s why we have lodged a Budget Submission urging the Federal Government to better support the profession by wiping HECS debts for new grads, bolstering the biosecurity role of vets, and prioritising mental health support for the profession.” 

Why Should You Care?

“Rural vets are as common as chicken lips!” Not quite a quote from the AVA minutes, but it might as well be. It summarizes the current state of affairs for many rural communities in Australia (not to mention many other countries). The good news is that the AVA has proposed a wonderfully simple solution to this problem which could also be applied elsewhere. 

By implementing a program with echoes of Australia’s post-World War II “Populate or Perish –  Ten Pound Poms” policy, recent vet school graduates could be tempted to work in areas of low workforce coverage in return for educational debt forgiveness. This would ease stress around veterinary school debt and help solve local labor shortages. 

We think this is a fantastic idea and we hope Canberra is listening. We also reckon other countries with rural issues should follow Australia’s lead on this issue!

Click here to read the full article. 

On January 5th, at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago, Clinton Neill, PhD, and Dr. Kemba Marshall co-led the session “The Tangibles of Intangible Burnout”.

The session addressed definitions and reasons for burnout along with ways to address burnout in the veterinary profession. 

According to The World Health Organization, burnout can be described as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It has three dimensions, including feelings of exhaustion, increased mental distance from work, or negative feelings related to work, and reduced professional efficacy. 

Veterinary burnout is becoming increasingly common due to increasing expectations from pet owners, the impacts of the global pandemic, overwhelming workloads, educational debt, and cyberbullying.

Dr. Neill believes the following five reasons must be addressed in order to combat burnout: 

  • Unfair treatment at work.
  • Unmanageable workload.
  • Lack of role clarity.
  • Lack of communication or perceived support from managers.
  • Unreasonable time pressures.

In order to overcome burnout, Dr. Neill has suggested using the Professional Quality of Life Assessment, which is a 30 question test that measures how healthcare providers feel about their work as professional caregivers.

Dr. Neill also mentioned a current clinical trial being conducted by Cornell University aims to address issues of burnout in the veterinary profession. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Marshall, founder of Marshall Recruiting Consortium and a practicing veterinarian, suggested, “Communication may be the most important tool we have to significantly impact our profession”.

Why Should You Care?

Burnout is a buzzword we often hear in our profession. It’s clear that it is affecting us as a collective massively.

There are a few things that you can do to help yourself recover from an episode of burnout- but what works varies from person to person. Many strategies for burnout recovery do not have masses of evidence behind them, making definitive recommendations difficult, so it’s encouraging to hear that studies are now in place to explore veterinary burnout further. 

For Burnout and Mental Health Support, Contact:

USA

Mental Health America – call 1-800-985-5990 or text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746

National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

UK

Samaritans – call 116 123

Vetlife – 0303 040 2551

Australia

Beyond Blue – call 1300 22 4636

Mental Health Australia – access the website (linked) for a list of resources

Click here to read the full article.

A new hard-hitting BBC Panorama and Disclosure investigation has shed light on illegal dog breeding in the UK. The investigation found a correlation between organized crime and the breeding of ‘fashionable’ dogs, such as American and French Bulldogs. 

The investigation, which aired on Monday 23rd January, uncovered how the popularity of these breeds has led criminal gangs to breed them in dangerous ways. 

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) had called for greater enforcement on irresponsible breeding, as well as regulations of canine fertility clinics and a ban on dogs imported with cropped ears. 

Justine Shotton, the BVA Senior Vice President, spoke out on the matter saying:

“It is horrific to see unscrupulous individuals breeding dogs to meet the demands of fashion without any consideration for the health or welfare of the animals. Sadly, this BBC investigation doesn’t come as a surprise to vets and animal welfare organisations. BVA has long raised concerns about irresponsible breeding and its links to unregulated canine fertility clinics and illegal ear cropping.

“This investigation is a wake-up call to government to take urgent action to protect the welfare of these animals by introducing regulation for fertility clinics as well as banning the importation of dogs with cropped ears through the Kept Animals Bill. Such a ban would close the legal loophole that allows this trend to continue despite the procedure being illegal in the UK.

“The public also has an important role to play in stemming the tide of irresponsible breeding. Responsible pet ownership begins even before you get a puppy, so we’d encourage anyone looking to buy a dog to pick health over looks or the latest fashion and always speak to your vet for advice…. We encourage people to report concerns around dogs with cropped ears and unregulated fertility clinics to their local government authority.”

The BVA is encouraging vets and members of the public to send a letter to their MP, urging the government to deliver its commitment to animal health and welfare. A template of the letter can be found here

Why Should You Care?

This comes as a surprise to no one, and it’s saddening to see high-profile celebrities parading dogs with cropped ears around on their social accounts. No doubt this is a large part of driving demand.

We’ve led the world in the UK for many years on items considered mutilation, but there is still work to do. Be sure to send the letter to your Member of Parliament. It wouldn’t hurt at all for vet clinics to have articles or social content helping to educate pet owners on how to make good choices when shopping for puppies. 

To read the full article, click here.

The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) has recently released an updated version of their Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters. 

The guidelines, which were first published in 2010, provide support for professionals caring for shelter, rescue, or foster animals, using evidence-based research. They also are used as a benchmark for shelter regulations, consultations, and organizational improvement. 

“Since our founding, we’ve maintained the same dedication to establishing and advancing consistent care in animal shelters. With the advancement of research and changes in shelter medicine, we knew it was time to update the guidelines to provide the best possible resource to shelters and veterinarians everywhere,” said ASV Executive Director, Tom Van Winkle.

Dr. Erin Doyle, the co-chair of the ASV task force that oversaw the updated guidelines added to this, saying: “The guiding principle of the guidelines is meeting animals’ physical and emotional needs, regardless of the mission of the organization or the challenges involved in meeting those needs.” 

Why Should You Care?

Guideline updates and continuous revisions are always important to ensure they provide the best resource that supports the animals in need, veterinarians, and shelters. Shelter medicine has come to an incredible distance and these guidelines provide a welcome opportunity to continue to move things forward. 

To find out more, click here.

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