Being a vet means doing a complex and challenging job which can frequently be stressful. We have to balance the needs of the animal, the needs of the client and the commercial needs of the practice as well as the need for everyone in the team to have a fulfilling and professionally satisfying job. We don't do this just for the money.
The answer is yes. Employment issues constitute the most frequent subject of calls to Vet Helpline – so there is plenty of evidence that, in spite of having gone through a rigorous training, and having a real vocation, many vets and veterinary nurses are still unhappy in their work.
More people call Vet Helpline for employment issues than for any other reason.
The welfare of the animals under our care is, and should be, top of our agenda. It cannot be the only item on our agenda. In the past it has been used as an excuse for neglecting working relationships with our colleagues. Modern veterinary practice involves people working together as a team. If the team is not healthy, it is not possible to provide a professional level of care for our patients or service to our clients. So, to neglect working relationships is a professional issue.
Employment law is complex and tends to change fairly frequently. Whether you are an employer or an employee, it is part of your professional duties to be really clear about your rights and responsibilities. The pages in this section of the website contain links to a wealth of information on this subject.
"No one told me about the non-clinical skills I would need. Or that they were learnable just like the clinical skills."
The training we receive makes us (by and large) good scientists – able to weigh up complex and often incomplete data and come to the right therapeutic decisions. We have however to work with other people – both colleagues and clients and this involves the need to develop a set of skills that can be lumped together under the term "emotional intelligence".
Examples of this include:
Finding ways to deliver criticism which are supportive and helpful (and the converse, being able to receive criticism without being devastated).
The ability to empathise with a distressed client or a stressed colleague.
The ability to engage in differences of opinion and conflict in ways which are respectful and which optimise a useful outcome.
The ability to negotiate your needs without becoming either a bully or a victim.
The ability to manage conflict in a positive way – see the Managing Conflict page
Again, statistics from Vet Helpline would seem to indicate that this is a major source of problems – either the absence of contracts or contracts which are unclear or have been broken in some way. We have devoted an entire page to this.
Much of the veterinary specific advice and help can only be accessed if you are a member of a specific organisation (BVA, BSAVA, BVNA, SPVS etc). It is up to you how much you invest in having a fulfilled and happy career. You have however studied for many years to get to this point – an enormous investment – so the cost of appropriate memberships, with the advantages they carry, is tiny when compared with what you have already put in.
As this website develops, we will be getting members of the relevant organisations to give us feedback on how helpful these membership services are.
The good news is that there is lots of free advice and information out there on other websites. So, if you do your homework – as employer or employee – you should be in a reasonable position to negotiate your needs in a way which benefits both you and the team of which you are a part. Frustratingly, some of the more specifically veterinary advice is buried within 'members only' websites but considering the investment you have already made in your career, a membership might well be worth it.