A labour shortage at veterinary surgeries is so bad that one company hired a nurse without looking at their resume, a recruiter says

·3 min read
Dog at vets
Demand for vets' services is soaring. Sebastian Condrea
  • Veterinary surgeries are turning to desperate measures to recruit staff amid a labor shortage.

  • One took on a nurse without looking at their resume, a recruiter said.

  • Long-running retention problems have been exacerbated by COVID-19 and a surge in pet ownership.

A veterinary surgery was so desperate for staff that it booked a nurse without looking at the person's resume, according to a recruiter - a move indicative of a huge labor shortage in the sector.

"I've been recruiting in the industry for 12 years now and it's never been tougher," Justin Powlesland, director of JHP recruitment, which specializes in recruitment for the veterinary industry in the US and UK, told Insider.

Veterinary medicine has long faced retention challenges as a result of intense hours and the emotional toll of the work. COVID-19 has increased the strain, with an increase in pet ownership during lockdowns adding to demand for veterinary services.

Powlesland said that, as a result, he has never had more vacancies on his website, with an average of 10 new postings a day in September.

"The minute we've got a vet with good experience, people are just saying, 'yeah, get them in for an interview today if you can,'" he said.

One surgery was so desperate to fill a temporary nurse's position that it asked to take an applicant without seeing their resume or asking for a rundown of their experience, Powlesland said.

"We had a client that we'd left a message for to say that we had a nurse available in their area," he said. "They phoned straight back and said yes please can we book them."

Businesses across the US in various sectors have also resorted to dramatically slashing their opening hours or cutting back on their services - both because they can't find enough staff to operate as usual and because labor is getting more expensive.

Lawrance Bresslaw, co-director of NSV, the vet recruiter that supplies small animal surgeries in the UK, US, Canada, and Australia said that he had seen one firm offer "golden handshakes" - a signing-on bonus - in order to attract workers.

"We're finding now that when we have vendors looking for work, it isn't a matter of finding the work, it's a matter of the practice having to showcase themselves," Bresslaw said.

Burnout and low pay

Bresslaw said that the challenges were pretty much the same in all the countries where he operates. High levels of burnout, emotional strain, and inadequate pay led people out of the industry.

Only 48% of vets in the UK said that they would enter the profession if they could choose their career again, according to a report from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, which is responsible for registering vets. The average annual turnover rate for veterinarians in the US was 15%, rising to 25% for technicians in 2020, according to an analysis by the American Animal Hospital Association.

In the UK the situation has been aggravated by Brexit, which has led to a decrease in the number of available workers.

In the short term, making life easier for vets and nurses to come and work in the UK could ease some of the supply challenges, Powlesland said. But more needs to be done to improve the work life balance and pay for those in the sector to make sure more stay, he said.

Improving the pipeline of graduates is another solution and should be helped by the opening of a number of new veterinary colleges in the UK, said Anthony Chadwick, a former vet who is now CEO of The Webinar Vet, which provides online training to the industry.

However, those vets will still need to be trained. "Anything you do today will take 5 years to have an effect," he said.

Expanded Coverage Module: what-is-the-labor-shortage-and-how-long-will-it-last

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