NAVC Researches Challenges and Opportunities in the Veterinary Profession

Voice of the Veterinary Community survey provides new insight into what matters most to veterinary professionals and pet owners when it comes to veterinary care

The North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) today released the Voice of the Veterinary Community, a landmark study conducted to better understand and respond to the needs of veterinary professionals and help shape the future of the veterinary profession.

The Voice of the Veterinary Community uniquely examines the key intersections of the veterinary practice experience, including the patient/provider relationship and how veterinarians and veterinary nurses/technicians feel about their work overall. The research also probes what is important to pet owners when it comes to their pets’ healthcare.

“The Voice of the Veterinary Community study will help guide the NAVC in planning and implementing programs and services to ensure the future vibrancy of the veterinary field and those who work in it,” said Gene O’Neill, NAVC CEO. “NAVC is engaging leaders across the profession to support us and the industry in this endeavor. With the coronavirus further exacerbating the financial and emotional stresses our veterinary community faces, the timing couldn’t be more important,” O’Neill said.

According to the study, helping animals on a daily basis is what veterinary professionals cite as their favorite part of their job (77%), followed by doing meaningful and purposeful work (65%). When it comes to stress, the study shows student and/or practice debt is the leading stressor for veterinarians followed by the pressure to adhere to appointment time restrictions and balancing work life with family. For veterinary technicians/nurses, staff turnover, compassion fatigue and burnout were the top stressors cited. The research also found that, like many other professions, including human medicine, more than one-quarter of veterinarians and veterinary technicians/nurses, plan to leave the field in the next five years, though the survey did not address the driving force behind that sentiment.

When it comes to pet owners’ experiences and feelings about their veterinarians, the survey found that an overwhelming 83% of clients are very or extremely satisfied with their veterinarian. They also gave very high marks to their overall clinic experience when it comes to a caring, clean, safe and secure environment.

Interestingly, 98% of veterinary professionals surveyed agree that preventative care is an important aspect of a pet’s health and well-being, but the number one reason pet owners cited for not going to the vet is that they believe that their pet is healthy.

“We want pet owners to understand the importance of preventative care and early disease detection for their pets,” said Dana Varble, NAVC Chief Veterinary Officer. “Early detection alone can save pet owners hundreds of dollars in the long term when it comes to animal healthcare.”

Initial plans NAVC will undertake to address the challenges reported in this study include:

  • Provide a stronger community and support wellbeing among veterinary teams, encouraging balance, raising awareness of signs associated with burnout, compassion fatigue and mental illness; and increasing acceptance of wellbeing assistance.
  • Provide more tools and training to improve management and communication skills for veterinary professionals. The NAVC will continue to advocate for improved utilization of trained veterinary paraprofessionals to better distribute the workloads, which will, in turn, improve job satisfaction and retention among the entire veterinary team.
  • Increase the types of educational resources available to veterinary team members while striving to provide free and low-cost options whenever possible.
  • Advocate the importance of veterinary care and showcase the expertise and experience of veterinary professionals to pet owners while increasing the recognition of the importance of the human-animal bond.

Other survey findings

In looking at the attitudes of the pet owners, the study found pet owners feel their vets acknowledge and understand the love and importance they have for their pets. Ninety percent of pet owners identify strongly with their pets and 87% say that their pet is a core part of their overall happiness and well-being.

Veterinarians and pet owners both recognize effective communications as an important quality. Pet owners also want their veterinary team to stay on top of the latest techniques and developments in diagnosis and treatment.

“This is a very rewarding field where veterinary care professionals get to work with what they’re most passionate about – animals. With pet ownership at an all-time high and unique stressors facing the veterinary profession, research like this is important for shaping the future of the industry,” said O’Neill.

The study was conducted by data and analytics consultancy LRW on behalf of the NAVC: 293 veterinarians, 277 veterinary nurses/technicians and 501 pet owners were surveyed. The precision in the report varies with responses and sample sizes for each question with an overall accuracy rate of +/- 4-6%. The full survey is available upon request.

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