In honour of World Veterinary Day and the huge contributions vets make to the lives of animals, we’re exploring life as a vet. From interesting veterinary facts to insights from the professionals themselves, here’s a glance at vet life.
Whether you work in the pet industry or not, there are many things we don’t know about vets. For example, did you know that the World Veterinary Association launched World Veterinary Day in 2000 as a way of celebrating the veterinary profession?
To help shed light on the veterinary service world, here are a few interesting facts you may not know.
6 veterinary facts
The term veterinarian comes from the Latin world veterinae, which means ‘working animals’.
It is believed that the first person credited with being an “expert in healing animals” was a man called Urlugaledinna in Mesopotamia in 3000 BC.
In Australia, there are 12, 769 registered vets (as of June 30, 2018).
Almost 70% of Aussie vets are female.
It seems veterinary medicine is a growing industry. Higher pet insurance uptake, growing awareness of animal health, and the increasing availability of advanced surgical and diagnostic procedures for animals have driven demand for the veterinary services industry over the past five years.
Over the next five years, veterinary services are anticipated to increasingly include services previously reserved for humans, such as endoscopies and oncology treatments.
Working as a vet incorporates the good, the bad and the sad. Not only do vets deal with emotional and challenging pet owners, but they also risk being bitten and scratched by frightened animals. All this in a day’s work! (Often they work very long days too.)
GreenCross Vets chief veterinary officer Dr Magdoline Awad says, “We work in a very rewarding profession with like-minded people. We have many opportunities to make a difference to people, communities and animal welfare — as well as having a diverse and fulfilling career.
She notes the many different areas in which vets can work. For example, working in clinical practice with small and large animals, in shelters and assisting populations of companion animals. There are also roles in research, government, policy and public health, as well as charity work in Australia (Pets in the Park) and overseas (Vets Beyond Borders).
Certainly, life as a vet can be varied and highly rewarding. Yet sadly, constant compassion and stress can take its toll. In fact, suicide rates amongst veterinarians are approximately four times that of the adult population in general.
Vet Anita Link knows exactly what it’s like to work in the veterinary industry. She has worked as a vet in Australian and the UK, in various practices and says the “working conditions ranged from excellent or atrocious.”
She recognises that while veterinary work can be wonderful, there are many stresses.
“The things I loved most about working as a vet was being able to solve problems for animals and their owners every day. Even on a bad day, there are usually some wins. I also never got bored with the work.”
However, with regards to the difficult side of veterinary work, she says, “Our clients get our kindness, our compassion, our sympathy, our skills our knowledge and our communication skills. But they never see our vulnerability. They don’t understand how high our risk of burn out (borne of caring too much and being overworked and undervalued) is.”
Tips for success
“To new vets entering the industry, I would recommend making their mental health a priority, because the industry can have a detrimental effect on it,” Anita says.
Dr Awad advises, “Don’t set a career path that you think you can’t deviate from; what you felt was the way you thought your career should go may not be what ends up bringing you the most joy or fulfillment.
“Have plans, but don’t rule out other opportunities that come your way. Always look for opportunities to learn and grow your skill-set, not just clinically but in other ways. Your ability to communicate, your empathy and compassion, your resourcefulness, your resilience and adaptability are just as important.”
She also offers the following easy-to-digest tips for a successful career in the veterinary profession.
Believe in yourself; imposter syndrome is so prevalent in our profession. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It is ok to make mistakes and learn from them.
You are not defined by your job. Have a life outside of work and do what makes you happy.
Your relationships, family and friends are important so maintain social connections.
Treat your health like it is the most important thing in the world — and that includes your mental health.
Ask for help when you need it. It isn’t a sign of weakness.
Seek out a mentor early on in your career, as they are invaluable.
She says, “If COVID has taught me anything, it is that vets are amenable to change and have great problem-solving skills. I’m proud to be a part of this profession.”
Australian Veterinary Workforce Survey 2018. Australian Veterinary Association. April 2019.
Veterinary Services in Australia industry outlook (2020-2025). IBIS World. Accessed online, April 2020.
Link, A. Veterinary Work In The Time Of Covid-19: Unspoken Truths. Thought Food (blog). April 15, 2020. Accessed online.
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