Pursuing nonclinical practice in the veterinary profession
I felt compelled to write after reading the recent JAVMA News article1 on the National Research Council's veterinary workforce study. Ever since my freshman year in veterinary school, the veterinary profession has been talking about careers in nonclinical practice. In the 34 years since, however, it appears we have made little progress.
I do not believe that encouraging more students to pursue advanced degrees immediately before or after veterinary school will be productive. My discussions over the years with various externs and new graduates would suggest that by the time they graduate, most students, regardless of interest, are looking for a break from school and are sufficiently far in debt that they need to start earning a regular salary. It is not surprising, therefore, that most tend to migrate into clinical practice.
I believe the veterinary profession should be looking for ways to help veterinarians who are not satisfied in clinical practice, regardless of whether they graduated a short or long time ago, to transition into careers in nonclinical practice or to develop and pursue other career interests, especially in government and with nongovernmental organizations. Advanced degrees are often unattainable after leaving academic life because of the costs required. Perhaps, therefore, the colleges of veterinary medicine could develop short-term certification courses that would allow experienced practitioners to qualify for these nonclinical types of jobs or could develop part-time advanced degree programs that do not require a research component.
Such programs could potentially give dissatisfied and disabled practitioners a career path that would allow them to remain in the veterinary profession. Clinical practice would not have to remain the default career path for a veterinarian's entire career, which could last more than 40 years.
Chip Beckett, DVM
1. Larkin M. A study in contrasts. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2012; 241:154–156.
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