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Challenges facing the farm animal veterinary profession in England: A qualitative study of veterinarians’ perceptions and responses
- Ruston, Annmarie, Shortall, Orla, Green, Martin, Brennan, Marnie, Wapenaar, Wendela, Kaler, Jasmeet
- Preventive veterinary medicine 2016 v.127 pp. 84-93
- agricultural industry, cattle, disease prevention, entrepreneurship, farm management, farmers, farming systems, farms, funding, interviews, market value, markets, medicine, models, monopoly, occupations, risk, veterinarians, veterinary schools, England
- The farm animal veterinary profession in the UK has faced a number of challenges in recent decades related to the withdrawal of government funding and a contraction of the agricultural sector. They have come under pressure to respond by developing skills and focusing on disease prevention advisory services. However, this puts veterinarians in competition with other providers of these services, and moves in this direction have only been partial. Failure to respond to these challenges puts the veterinary profession at risk of de-professionalisation—a loss of their monopoly over knowledge, an erosion of client beliefs in their service ethos and a loss of work autonomy. This paper explores how farm animal veterinarians in England perceive these challenges and are responding to them.Semi-structured qualitative interviews were carried out with 28 veterinarians from Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon farm accredited practices. Veterinarians were chosen from high, medium and low density cattle farming regions. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and themes identified through the constant comparison method.The majority of respondents recognised the challenges facing the veterinary profession. Most believed their role had changed, moving towards that of a disease prevention adviser who was part of the farm management team. In terms of maintaining and redefining their professional status, farm animal veterinarians do have a defined body of knowledge and the ability to develop trusting relationships with clients, which enhances their competitiveness. However, while they recognise the changes and challenges, moves towards a disease prevention advisory model have only been partial. There seem to be little effort towards using Farm accreditation status or other strategies to promote their services. They do not appear to be finding effective strategies for putting their knowledge on disease prevention into practice. Disease prevention appears to be delivered on farm on an ad hoc basis, they are not promoting their disease prevention services to farmers effectively or using their professional position to stave off competition.Farm animals veterinarians will need to realign their veterinary expertise to the demands of the market, work together rather than in competition, improve their skills in preventive medicine, consolidate information given by non-veterinary advisors, develop new business models appropriate to their services and develop entrepreneurial skills to demonstrate their market value if they are to avoid becoming marginalised.