Why leave rural practice?
The shortage of rural veterinarians may be more influenced by a lack of retention than attracting new people to the field,
the study authors note, adding that recruiters might do well to focus efforts more on keeping rural veterinarians in practice
than in trying to draw them to it.
The second study focused on why vets left rural practice. This survey polled 805 rural veterinarians — 246 of whom had abandoned
the field. About 94 percent of those who left did so after less than five years of practice. Most who left were from urban
backgrounds, though rural veterinarians without previous livestock experience did not leave their positions any more than
those with prior experience.
There was not a significant difference between the number of men and women who left rural practice in general, or because
of time off or emergency duty. More women, however, did report leaving the profession because of the practice atmosphere than
compared to men. Similarly, Generation Xers ranked practice atmosphere as a factor in leaving much more frequently than the
Silent Generation. About 23 percent of women, and no men, ranked gender issues in rural practice as being a reason for leaving.
Men and women both cited potential for practice ownership and family concerns as highly important in their decision to take
jobs in rural practice. Members of generations X and Y cited salary, benefits and time off as factors for leaving.
"It is possible that because veterinarians focused on personal qualities in accepting a first job in rural veterinary practice,
they also placed less emphasis on factors such as salary, time off and emergency duty, which eventually became important issues
as time passed," the study states. "To promote retention of personnel in rural veterinary practice, these positions may need
to evolve over time to meet the changing needs of veterinarians."
Those who left rural practice most often went to urban practices, followed by jobs in academia.
The studies were conducted by: Aurora Villarroel, DVM, MPVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVPM; Stephen R. McDonald, DVM; William L. Walker,
DVM; Lana Kaiser, MD, DVM; Renee D. Dewell, DVM, MS; and Grant A Dewell, DVM, PhD. The full studies were published in the
April 15 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.