Racial Prejudice in Veterinary Care: The Realities of Being a Black Vet
With only 2% of the U.S veterinary workforce being made up of black veterinarians (according to 2017 figures from the U.S Bureau of Labour Statistics), racial prejudice is a prolific problem within the community.
‘In some parts of America, it is not safe for a Black veterinarian to work’ said Dr. Ruby Perry, dean of Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine. She said that black veterinarians can face prejudice and abuse from white clientele, putting their safety at risk.
Additionally, many black veterinary professionals are dissuaded from starting up their own businesses, due to the unique barriers they face.
‘While there is a strong bent in communities of color toward entrepreneurship, there are also realities such as lending discrimination and housing discrimination that are frankly directly related to the realities of marginalization and discrimination’ said Lisa Greenhill, EdD, senior director for institutional research and diversity at the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges.
‘It doesn’t mean that lots of Black veterinarians do not go this route, but it does mean that more probably don’t.’
Although many independent and corporate-owned veterinary organizations (including Idexx Laboratories, Banfield Pet Hospital, and Zoetis) are trying to increase diversity in the field, much more needs to be done.
Dr. Perry advises practice owners keen to increase representation to look inwards at their businesses, and provide diversity training, actively trying to recruit minority vets.
‘With a safe and conducive working environment, employees recruit others’ she said.
‘They are the practice owner’s best advocates.’
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Unionization Calls After Rise in Corporate Ownership
Although corporate-owned veterinary practices have been around since 1987, corporations now own around 10% of all general veterinary practices and 40-50% of referral practices in the United States.
This has led to concerns around worker wellbeing and support within the profession. Many vets struggle to voice their concerns due to multi-layer corporate leadership structures. In response, many professionals have been advocating for unionization.
‘The benefits of unions are threefold: solidarity, accountability, and wage transparency. Unions give you a voice at your workplace. It’s easy for management to discount 1 or 2 people, but when you’re in solidarity with your coworkers, they can’t ignore you’ says Liz Hughston, MEd, RVT, CVT, LVT, VTS (SAIM) (ECC), a relief veterinary technician in San Jose, California, and president of the National Veterinary Professionals Union.
‘I believe unionization will lead to increased retention and less turnover. Burnt-out veterinary professionals are continually leaving this profession and switching over to human medicine and other careers. If we can pay them appropriately, utilize them better, enhance their benefits, and promote work-life balance, it can change our industry indefinitely’.
Although there are numerous benefits to unionization, the process of unionization itself is lengthy and may require additional membership costs.
‘There are a lot of challenges and obstacles to unionization. Our itinerant workforce makes it difficult. These are long fights, so you have to find people who are passionate, engaged, and able to stick it out to the end.’
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BVA Endorses WVA Climate Change Position
For Earth Day, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has joined 21 other veterinary associations across the globe in their endorsement of the World Veterinary Association’s (WVA) position on the Global Climate Change Emergency.
This position recognizes the impact of climate change on both veterinarians and their patients, the role the profession plays in terms of protecting ecosystem health, and actively working to help mitigate the effects of climate change.
BVA Junior Vice President, Justine Shotton said:
‘We know that many of our members care very deeply about environmental issues, with 89% of those who took part in a recent Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey saying that they would like to play a bigger part in the UK’s sustainability agenda.’
‘BVA is committed to helping support our profession towards a more sustainable future. We continue to contribute to stakeholder discussions, lobbying work, and development of resources for ways in which vets can feed into the UK’s sustainability agenda, and we strongly support the WVA’s position on the Global Climate Change Emergency.’
‘We join WVA in calling on all vets to consider what they can do to help protect the environment, and recommend looking at the ‘Greener Veterinary Practice Checklist’ to help move towards more sustainable ways of working.’
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New BAME Veterinary Student Support Working Group Hosts First Meeting
A Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RVCS) and Veterinary Schools Council (VSC) working group striving to support black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) students in the UK has recently hosted its first meeting, outlining its core goals.
The group formed last year and hopes to support minority students who are woefully underrepresented in the veterinary field. The group also wants to create guidance on wearing religious attire in clinical settings.
During Monday’s meeting (on March the 15th, 2021), the group discussed reporting structures for discriminatory incidents amongst other things.
Prof. Rob Pettitt, as co-chair of the Working Group in a statement, said:
‘I co-hosted the roundtable last year and found it fascinating and insightful, but also recognized the considerable frustrations that the students felt and that’s why I am excited that this group has now got underway, so we can focus on making progress and finding solutions to the issues that were raised’.
‘It’s vitally important of course, that these decisions are not made for the students, but by them, and that’s why I am very glad to have Stephanie-Rae as my co-chair, as someone who can voice the concerns of her peers, and help articulate the issues’.
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Practice Consolidations Continue to Accelerate in North America
A report by the Canada-based data and analytics company, Veterinary Integration Solutions, has found that corporate ownership is increasing all across North America.
The report stated that:
‘Due to the accelerating pace of veterinary consolidation today (more than 60 veterinary consolidators known so far), it is hard to estimate the real number of company-owned vet practices’.
‘Back in 2017, it was over 10% (around 3,500 of 32,000) … and the real numbers change nearly every month’.
The CEO of Veterinary Integration Solutions, Ivan Zakharenkov, DVM, concluded that:
‘Veterinary practice consolidation is progressing’.
‘In the upcoming years, we are likely to see more private equity firms buying practices which will be eventually swallowed up by even bigger corporations … this can play into the hands of practice owners planning retirement’.
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Tackling Stress in the Workplace
It is a well-known fact that stress within the workplace hampers both productivity, attendance, morale, and employee well-being.
Unchecked stressors can cause serious long-term implications for sufferers, including depression and anxiety, impacting wellbeing in both professional and personal spaces.
Thankfully, there are several strategies employers can utilize to help their employees (and themselves).
Create a Mental Health Policy
Designing and administering a mental health policy can be a good first step towards improving wellbeing. Such a policy should outline what employees should do if they experience mental health issues, giving clear direction and guidance. This can help alleviate staff absences and encourage early intervention.
Actively Manage Workloads
High workloads are a well-known cause of workplace stress. Oftentimes, employers can lose touch with their staff’s responsibilities, inadvertently delegating tasks to already overburdened individuals. Having one-on-one meetings with colleagues to review workloads can be a good way to monitor and manage this.
Create a Safe Space
To tackle mental health in the workspace, employees need to be able to talk about it. Creating a safe environment whereby staff feel comfortable expressing their concerns will help foster a nurturing workplace. This also allows managers or senior staff members to intervene early on during the progression of an illness, preventing a full-blown crisis in the long run.
For more advice on how to manage stress in the workplace, follow the link below:
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