Veterinary technology graduates' perceptions of their education and subsequent employment experiences

Veterinary technology graduates' perceptions of their education and subsequent employment experiences
Peer reviewed

Abstract

Aims: To describe the current employment status of Bachelor of Veterinary Technology (BVetTech) graduates in New Zealand, to assess how well they felt that their degree programme had prepared them for practice, and to explore their experiences in their current job roles.

Methods: All 195 individuals who completed the BVetTech degree at Massey University between 2011 and 2018 were invited to participate in a cross-sectional survey regarding their education and employment experiences. Descriptive statistics were provided for all quantitative study variables and thematic analysis was performed on the free-text survey comments.

Results: The survey was completed by 125/195 (64.1%) BVetTech graduates. Of these, 96/125 (76.8%) were engaged in full-time or part-time veterinary work. The most common work environments were small animal practice (55/125; 44.0%) and mixed animal practice (19/125; 15.2%). The median reported annual salary was NZ$42,640 (mean $45,817; min $34,515; max $80,000) while the median reported hourly wage was NZ$20.00 (mean $21.01; min $17.70; max $27.00). Most respondents generally agreed with statements that their degree had prepared them well for different aspects of their subsequent work as veterinary technologists with “understanding the scientific rationale behind clinical decisions in practice” and “gaining hands-on practical experience that directly linked with their classroom learning” highlighted as being the best aspects of their education. However, respondents expressed the need for more training in client interactions and veterinary business management. Common themes that emerged when respondents were asked to describe the best things about their work were “forming relationships with animals, clients, and co-workers,” “making a meaningful difference through their work,” and “having opportunities to use and develop their skills” while the worst things about their job were “underutilisation of their skills,” “poor pay in relation to their education and skill,” and “compassion fatigue arising from dealing with euthanasia and difficult clients.” Another common theme across free-text questions was the lack of employer awareness about the capabilities of a veterinary technologist.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: Recent BVetTech graduates were generally satisfied with their educational experience, but perceived that employers underestimated the value of their training and consequently underutilised their skills. This highlights the need for additional research to better estimate the value of veterinary technologists to the New Zealand animal health industries as well as additional extension efforts to increase awareness amongst employers about the scope of responsibilities that veterinary technologists are legally able to perform in practice.


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