December 8, 2008

When your vet is a woman.....

I caught up with my friend and past vet nurse over the weekend. Was great to see her and catch up on the news. Of course we also swapped stories about our memories of the practice. We laughed over one of hers, about when I was on call one day and answered the clinic after-hours phone. A man immediately asked to speak to my husband. On determining that it was about an injured cat I was able to say he was welcome to speak to my husband, but, as he was an electrician he might not find it very useful.......scenarios like this were not abnormal, as it was still unusual for the vet to be a woman and I was often treated with suspicion by the clients initially....

The story did remind me how much times have changed. The veterinary associations around the world are all facing the implications of the gender shift of veterinary surgeons. When I trained, my class was 75% male; today it is likely to be 75% female. Apparently this is also the ratio seen in the applicants and is not caused by the girls having higher exam results. Most boys are now seeing veterinary work as a female career and making a decision at high school to choose careers in accounting, law and business, where they feel they will make more money. Medicine is still seen as desirable by both genders, even engineering, but the trend away from science in general is causing a lot of concern at tertiary level with an ongoing problem and skill shortage developing in industries.

The main issues being faced for the vet profession are that fewer graduates are entering rural practice, which leaves the country vulnerable to potential spread of diseases and less efficient herd management. Fewer vets are wanting ownership of a practice which leaves the current vets facing retirement with no one to sell their business to.

Planned government changes might help resolve the rural aspects through increased training of rural technicians and financial subsidies to attract graduates into rural areas.

We still need to develop options that include job sharing, maternity leave, part time options and recognition of a need for personal and family time for all vets. Graduates today are less prepared to work long days, or be on call all night and as a result there are now better after hours services, and fresh, dedicated day teams who are not tired after being up all night.

More clinics are combining and building modern premises to offer larger hospital services with specialists available and better equipment.

One of our local practices has a purpose built modern building;

Another local clinic has just rebuilt...

Using ultrasound:

Other services available can include
• Chemotherapy
• Endoscopy
• Specialist X-ray facilities
• Blood pressure monitoring
• ECG • Full Dental Services
• Routine & Orthopedic surgery
• Microchipping

Overall, the changes are great, and if vets could just charge what their services are really worth, the profession might be more attractive to both genders again, and the vet nurses and techs could also be paid what they are truly worth.

I have read three blog entries this week that summed this up far better than I can.

One features the cost of training as a vet.

This one features the perception that vets are expensive.

This one writes movingly about the realities of after hours practice and the fact that pet owners often do not have insurance, and still expect cheap rates, or even free services.

We have a number of good pet insurance schemes available in New Zealand and internationally. Talk to your local vet clinic about it and they will help you choose the right plan.

And watch this space to see the changes happening in vet practices near you...


  1. Fi, you have a wonderful blog! And thank you so much for leading me to Blogger Buster--it's exactly the type of information I've been looking for to make my own blog more interesting. A very Merry Christmas to everyone "Down Under" in New Zealand!

  2. Thank you - and yes, I find Blogger Buster very useful :)

  3. Fi many thanks for linking to the post :-)

    With regards to the person confused you were the vet we do not have that problem in UK now in vets.
    We do still have it if there is a male nurse it is assumed they are vets.

  4. Great blog, and thanks for linking to mine.

    Here in the US we are also seeing a major trend towards veterinarians being predominantly women. A few years ago one of our vet schools admitted it's first ever 100% female classes. We also reached the point in the country where 50% of practicing vets are women. With upwards of 80% of graduating vets being women, this will continue to trend higher. As a man, I have no problem with these numbers, but it seems strange that I'm quickly becoming a minority!


Comments welcome....always love to hear what you think!


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