14 Feb 2024
As a young vet, I empathise with junior doctors
There has been a lot in the press recently regarding the junior doctor strikes over the changes in work contracts, which will lead to longer working hours and reduced pay. There are concerns that as individuals are pushed to work for longer hours in a stressful and demanding environment, their clinical judgment and ability to make logical decisions may be impaired, which could negatively impact on patient safety.
There has been a lot in the press recently regarding the junior doctor strikes over changes in work contracts, which will lead to longer working hours and reduced pay. There are concerns that as individuals are pushed to work for longer hours in a stressful and demanding environment, their clinical judgment and ability to make logical decisions may be impaired, which could negatively impact on patient safety.
However there are also major concerns about how these changes may impact on junior doctors’ mental wellbeing and the future of the medical profession. The British Medical Association has reported that nearly a third of doctors have some kind of mental health disorder. Many doctors work long hours and have heavy workloads, which can cause severe depression and lead to suicide attempts. If the changes were to go ahead then it is possible that there could be an increase in mental health problems, and more individuals may be pushed to leave the profession.
Drawing parallels with the veterinary profession
I cannot help but draw parallels with our own profession. We are all aware that mental health problems, such as depression, are common within the veterinary profession. It's an alarming fact that the suicide rate among vets is nearly four times the national average - double that of doctors or dentists.
As a young veterinary graduate I can empathise with junior doctors and their concerns for the future of their profession. In recent months veterinary employers have expressed concerns in their ability to recruit suitable candidates and there are indicators that suggest there is an overall shortage in the veterinary profession's work force. With two recently opened vet schools and more graduates entering practice each year than ever before, you cannot help question why this situation is arising.
Unfortunately the main reason appears to be that more individuals are leaving the profession, particularly during the early stages of their career, due to stress, inadequate support, unclear management and poor work-life balance. The recent Vet Futures survey of graduates revealed that only half say their career has matched expectations and, furthermore, 10% said they were considering leaving the profession.
I am sad to say that there have been times when I can relate to these feelings, and I know that I am not alone. It is all too common to speak to recent graduates who’ve had, or still do have, frustrations with their career opportunities and a lack of support in practice.
Investing in veterinary graduates
It is clear that there are issues within our profession and that further improvements can still be made to help prepare and support students prior to graduation and during the early stages of their career in practice. I am encouraged by initiatives like the Vet Futures project, as it shows that BVA and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons are positively addressing the issues facing our profession and investing in the development of UK graduates.
I do not envy junior doctors participating in the strike and the pressures it will place on them. It makes me appreciate that we have projects like Vet Futures and the Young Vet Network to help support our recent graduates and hope we can work together to retain bright and talented individuals within the veterinary profession in the future.
If you have concerns about your health and wellbeing, or would like free and confidential support, contact the Vet Helpline on 0303 040 2551 or visit Vetlife for further information.
You can also share your views on this topic using the BVA community.
Written by Nicky Mansell
Recent graduate representative on BVA Council
Nicky graduated from Royal Veterinary College in 2012 and has worked in mixed practice ever since. She currently works for Chine House Veterinary Hospital in Leicestershire.
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