Pet Gazette DECEMBER 2018 - Page 34

34 | VET GAZETTE | BVA TIME FOR CHANGE: ADDRESSING THE ‘LEAKY BUCKET’ IN THE VETERINARY PROFESSION By Daniella Dos Santos (British Veterinary Association junior vice president) A sk members of the veterinary profession why we are facing a retention crisis, and you are likely to hear similar thoughts: “The youngsters don’t want to work the hours.” “Too many women are having babies and going part time.” “Vets today have never had it better: decent pay, no OOHs, four- day weeks… They just don’t have the drive.” A major new study commissioned by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and conducted by researchers from the University of Exeter dismisses all these presumptions and shows that it is time the profession took a long, hard look at itself. The study, published last month and available to download on BVA’s website, shows that day-to-day workplace experiences, such as feeling valued and admired by colleagues, having role models available, and feeling a sense of fitting in, have the strongest impact on vets’ motivations to stay in the profession. Vets who feel they belong have a greater expectation they will succeed in their careers and were more likely to feel they have a good work-life balance even if their hours were long. Without these motivators, respondents to the survey revealed they are less likely to feel satisfied in their roles, more likely to suffer burn-out and consider leaving the profession. In fact, the study found that 37 percent of respondents were actively thinking about leaving. Interestingly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the research revealed that women in the profession were more likely than their male peers to struggle with the lack of role models and less likely to experience the feeling of ‘fitting in’. A follow-up joint study, launched at the London Vet Show last month, found that gender discrimination was present in many of the employers’ recommendations on pay, competence and career advice, but ironically this was most prominent among those who believe that ‘discrimination against women in the veterinary profession is no longer a problem’. BVA and the authors of the report believe there are some simple steps that employers and employees can take to improve workplace culture and boost the retention of skilled and motivated staff. Making sure every employee’s opinions are heard: Employers should make an effort to seek advice from a broad range of employees, facilitate opportunities for colleagues to discuss ideas with one another, and ensure that such opportunities are as evenly distributed as possible. Simple things such as a ‘thank you’ for staying late to deal with an emergency are also small gestures that are vital to nurture a workplace where everyone’s opinions are heard and valued. Making available accessible and attainable role models and ensuring that there are clear routes to success: Role models within a practice can have a range of different faces: a part-time mother may well be the best new graduate mentor, and the consulting-only vet may well have the best communication skills. Supporting reduced work hours: In some business situations there is no way round a 10-hour day, but there are ways employers can look at improving the work-life balance. No vet will begrudge staying late for a genuine emergency, but if no lunch break and unpaid overtime is a regular occurrence for most employees in a practice, the problem is not with them but with how the business is managed. Flexible working shouldn’t be ‘just for mothers’: We need a team approach to managing flexible working: job sharing, part- time, split shifts, a fixed day off or evening/ weekend-only are all examples. This is not just about having a family to care for, this is about both male and female vets having a life outside work to maintain their mental wellbeing and have a desire for a work-life balance accommodated without judgement. The James Herriot days are behind us, as are the days of our worth being judged by working long hours. With the passage of time veterinary medicine has progressed, as have client expectations, and what was the norm for the workforce decades ago no longer applies. It is time we face up to this as a profession and cultivate a workplace and workforce suited to the 21st Century. Let’s look inwards at how we treat each other in the workplace and work together to change the culture.Download both studies at December 2018