Poll: skilled new vets lack business acumen

Veterinary graduates have good overall clinical skills and empathy with clients, but are less good in terms of surgery, and financial and business management, according to employers.

The first national Veterinary Schools Council (VSC) Employer Survey 2017 also highlighted graduate resilience as an area further work was required in.

The VSC competency survey is new for 2017 in that, for the first time, it questioned together the current employers of graduates from each of its member universities – Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham and the RVC, as well as non-associate members University College Dublin and Utrecht University.

In total, 576 employers responded to the survey. More than half worked in small animal practice and around a third in mixed practice. The remainder came from specialist equine only, farm animal only, exotics or other (unstated) veterinary-linked employment.

The survey concerned vets who had graduated in the past two years. However, the authors observed: “It was noted a graduate of two years can be radically different to a graduate of a few months, so comparisons are not always fair.”

The results suggest graduates are broadly competent across the range of attributes surveyed.

Questions were grouped into seven categories, ranked in order of the overall mean competency score of the items within each category. Employers rated empathy, communication and collaboration, and clinical and practical skills as the top competency abilities of their graduates. Professionalism and professional identity, along with decision making, were rated in mid-table.

However, resilience scored second to lowest, with financial and business management competency coming last.

In terms of individual question competency scores, the highest were for graduates carrying out basic sedation and anaesthesia procedures, and ability to perform a complete clinical examination, appropriate to the circumstances.

Lowest mean competency scores for individual question items were rated by employers as the ability of graduates to remain calm and appear comfortable while working in pressurised situations and, lowest score of all, showing an awareness of expenditures involved in running a veterinary business.


Susan Rhind, chairman of the VSC education committee, said: “This data allows us to get the broadest sense we have ever had of how our graduates are transitioning into the professional environment. There will always be ups and downs during this experience, and the voice of employers is key to understanding how to prepare students for this important period.”

  • Read the full story in the 27 November issue of Veterinary Times.