Vet Business

State of the European Veterinary Profession

Survey of the Veterinary Profession in Europe

The Federation of Veterinarians in Europe did it again! After their 2015 veterinary demographics report they released their new version in October 2019. In this new report the opinion of 14,500 veterinarians from 30 different EU countries was gathered on issues of veterinary service demand, practice characteristics, employment conditions, future trends and demographic composition of the sector.  

This kind of research is of paramount importance for the veterinary profession. It will help veterinarians, private practices, veterinary education- and research institutions, veterinary associations and representatives to make “evidence based” strategic decisions for their future. Systematic- and strategic thinking about our practices and our profession is not something we learn during our veterinary education. However, using some tools for your clinical toolkit and applying them to your businesses can make sense.  Given the current innovations and challenges we have face we have to start thinking more strategically. Having this kind of information about our profession is very valuable. In this Blog you will find the most significant findings and the link to the FVE report.

Demographics and job market

• A continuing growth is seen in our profession; we have now an estimated 309,144 veterinarians in Europe (39 FVE member countries).

• The veterinary profession in Europe is a young profession. Most European veterinarians are under the age of 45.

• There is a general and continuing trend towards the feminization of the veterinary profession: 58% of the responding veterinarians are female and 42% are male. This represents a 5% increase in female veterinarians since 2015. With the proportion of female veterinarians being much higher amongst veterinarians under 40, it is expected that feminization will continue further.

• The vast majority (81%) of veterinarians work fulltime. The number of unemployed veterinarians has gone down (3% in 2015, 1% in 2018). Underemployment also has gone down substantially since 2015, although still is rated at 18% (coming from 23%).

• The most common employment sector most respondents were employed in remains clinical practice (58%), and within this, predominantly small animal clinical practice. The second most common sector is public service (14% in 2018, down from 19% in 2015), education and research (11% in 2018, up from 6% in 2015) and industry (4%). A further 12 % of the profession carry out veterinary work in other areas.

Veterinary practices

• An interesting point to note is that the average size of veterinary practices appears to be undergoing a period of change. Currently most veterinary practices (70%) are small, with fewer than five staff. However, there would appear to be a trend towards increasing corporatization and the creation of larger practice groups.

• Veterinarians working alone will be a minority by 2030 according to the majority of respondents.

• A slight decrease in veterinary ownership can also be seen, with more veterinarians in 2018 working as veterinary employees than in 2015, which corresponds to the trend noted above.

• The biggest growth in future staffing is foreseen in large practices.

Working as a veterinarian

• The highest earning veterinary-trained professionals are those working in consultancy, followed by food hygiene. The lowest-paid veterinarians work as employees in private clinical practice.

• The difference in pay between men and women responding to the survey was substantially less than in 2015; with in 2018 females being paid on average 12% less than their male colleagues (28% in 2015).

• On average, veterinarians in Europe continued to spend around 40 hours a year on continuing professional development (CPD).

• In terms of how satisfied veterinarians were that their education had prepared them for the job market, the average score given was 5 (with 0 being “complete dissatisfaction” and 10 “complete satisfaction”). For recently graduated veterinarians, it takes an average of two years from graduation to finding a job that allows them economic independence.

• Most veterinarians plan to retire when they are between 65 and 69 years old, while 20% want to retire after the age of 70.

• They veterinary profession is mobile, with 7% of respondents having worked in another country in the last three years. Veterinarians tend to move away from countries with high unemployment towards countries with more opportunities on the job market.

• If they could have their time again, 60% of respondents would choose to study veterinary medicine again. This number seems low, especially recognizing that our survey will not have reached many veterinarians who moved out of the veterinary profession.

Wellbeing and the future

• The 2018 survey included questions on wellbeing and mental health, which was not the case with the 2015 survey. As such, no comparisons could be made.

• Stress levels in the profession are reported to be high. Veterinarians report a level of stress at work of 7 out of 10, using a scale from 0 to 10 where 10 represents the highest level of stress.

• A quarter (26%) of veterinarians reported they had to take more than two weeks off work due to depression, burn-out, exhaustion or compassion fatigue in the last three years. This number is substantially higher in some countries.

• Most veterinarians believe that animal welfare under the influence of societal pressure will become more important in the future and an essential factor of sustainability.

• More specialization is still a priority for veterinarians to help overcoming future challenges. More business training and increasing digital skills are also backed by a high proportion of veterinarians. Increasing legislation governing the profession, on the other hand, proved unpopular.

• In respect to digitalization and telemedicine, veterinarians are unsure what the future will bring. Veterinarians doubt if telemedicine in the future will facilitate the provision and access to veterinary services (scoring it 5.1 on a scale of 0 to 10) although they score higher (6.3) the possibility that new veterinary working areas such as data scientist will exist by 2030.

Points for further consideration

The results of our 2018 survey show several positive trends compared to 2015, namely:

• A veterinary degree opens a door to a wide range of career options. We see that more veterinarians in 2018 compared to 2015 are taking up less traditional job opportunities.

• Unemployment and underemployment figures have decreased, even in the countries that were the hardest hit by the recession.

• The gap in renumeration between female and male veterinarians has also decreased.

• The 2018 survey for the first time provided data on the wellbeing of veterinarians. It is clear from our results that stress levels in the profession are extremely high and that wellbeing definitely needs further attention in the future.

• Private clinical practice is changing. While slow in some countries, and fast in others, corporatization leads to larger practices and more veterinarians working as veterinary employees instead of owners. These larger organizations will have an impact such as on the style and type of veterinary employment impacting upon earnings, work patterns, employment opportunities and wellbeing of veterinarians. They will also have an impact on professional veterinary organizations at either national level or European level.

• There remains a recognized need to advance undergraduate training and to ensure that veterinary undergraduate training prepares veterinarians for the job market. Many veterinarians feel that currently this is not the case. Whilst much has been done over recent years to widen and increase the range of skills and training offered to undergraduates there remains a need to further widen the training base so that other fields become core parts of the curriculum.

What is needed to meet the challenges according to EU veterinarians

More specialization is still the most demanded requirement to meet the future challenges, backed by 62.1% of the participants.

More business training for veterinarians and increasing digital skills for work are also popular measures for 57 per cent and 43 per cent of the veterinarians respectively.

For the full report go to: www.fve.org

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