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Fresh insight into recruitment and retention

26 June 2019, at 9:00am

A recent study has provided updated information on staffing issues in the profession

Recruitment and retention are two of the most important challenges facing the profession. One only has to read posts on the social media sites for UK veterinary surgeons to realise this is a hotly debated topic. Whilst social media sites play a wonderful role in allowing colleagues to share experiences and get help and support on a wide variety of clinical and non-clinical issues, there seems to me a preponderance of negative comments.

I have always felt we are reluctant to portray the amazing aspects of our profession for whatever reason. I was delighted when the current BEVA President, Renate Weller, along with colleagues from the RVC and BSAVA, decided to collaborate to conduct a new study to update our understanding of veterinary recruitment and retention. The study consisted of a questionnaire designed to obtain the opinions of employed and unemployed veterinary surgeons and registered veterinary nurses from across the UK, and from across all veterinary disciplines. The questionnaire was approved by the RVC’s Ethics and Welfare Committee.

The hope was that this study would provide evidence-based facts rather than anecdotal impressions gained from social media sites. The number of responses would suggest that the results should stand up to close scrutiny and be deemed to be representative of the UK profession.

In total, 3,549 respondents employed in the UK completed the survey in full. Of those, 2,474 were veterinary surgeons and 1,075 were veterinary nurses. The clever design of the study and the superb data analysis team working on the results allowed a very detailed breakdown of the demographics of those who participated. This included the age and gender of participants, the nationality of participants, employment status, work environment, employment system, nature of the role, species split and team size.

The study was extensively promoted through the media channels of BEVA and BSAVA as well as social media. The questionnaire covered three sections:

  1. “Current employment”, including information on job applications and reasons for leaving and/or staying in the profession
  2. “About you”, including participant demographics
  3. “You as an employer”, including information on challenges recruiting individuals from all professions/occupations and with different levels of experience

An enormous amount of data was generated and analysed descriptively, and this can be accessed here. The results are displayed in a superbly illustrated format with intuitive graphics leading readers through the details. There are six sections: demographics; finding a job; job satisfaction; postgraduate training and network; salary and working hours; and the employer’s view.

The study has thrown up some fascinating findings – some of considerable surprise. I won’t reveal the full details, but to whet the appetite, “almost half of all vets say they are either ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to search for a new job within the next two years – but of these, fewer than 10 percent say they want to quit the profession entirely”.

As with everything to do with Brexit, respondents to the question “How has the UK’s decision to leave the EU impacted on recruitment” were split more or less down the middle. Around half of the relevant respondents said it had made recruitment harder and the other half said it had made no difference. Mind you, less than 1 percent said that Brexit had made recruitment easier. Interestingly, on the question of retaining existing staff, a clear majority of 68 percent thought the Brexit vote had made no real difference.

In an attempt to provide an insight into the questions that have been raised, BEVA organised “virtual” round table discussions with several relevant colleagues to discuss the findings. These have been uploaded as a series of compelling video clips and include the topics “Are there too many vets leaving the profession?”; “Is recruitment tougher than it ever was?”; “Do you think we are behind the times with CPD?”; and “What can we do to keep vets in the practice?”

Hopefully this has given you some food for thought and you are all strongly encouraged to take some time to check out the BEVA website and go through this landmark study and all associated material. For sure it is time well spent for all of us involved in the veterinary profession, in whatever capacity.