A mixed-method pilot study investigating challenges experienced by mixed animal veterinarians in practice and their private practice experiences prior to graduation
Keywords:survey, mixed practice, externships
The attrition of veterinarians from mixed animal practice is concerning to the industry. The objectives of this pilot study were to describe the experiences that students gain in private practices prior to graduation and to investigate the impact of these experiences on retention in mixed animal practice. Thirty-six veterinarians within 10 years post-graduation, who were employed in mixed practice as a new graduate, responded to an online questionnaire. Four of these veterinarians also participated in individual interviews. During veterinary school, 76.% spent time in private practice during pre-clinical years and 97% undertook private practice experiences (externships) in their clinical year. Most frequently reported challenges of mixed practice were working more hours than scheduled followed by weekend work, on call and financial issues equally. Upon graduation, 71.4% of veterinarians remaining in mixed practice felt prepared, whereas all 6 that had left mixed practice felt unprepared for challenges of mixed practice. 85.3% felt that externships prepared them the most for a career as a mixed animal practitioner. Three themes emerged from the interviews: working conditions; versatility of medicine; and business ability and knowledge. This study highlights the role of externships in preparing students for life in mixed animal practice.