Nazrene Moosa qualified as a veterinary surgeon from the University of Pretoria in South Africa in 1988. She has been in small animal practice ever since – first in South Africa and, for the last 18 years, in the South East of the UK. In the last 27 years she has worked as a sole practitioner/owner as well as for independent and corporate-owned practices, and currently works in a busy small animal practice in West Sussex.
When I first arrived in the UK almost 20 years ago, there were major changes afoot in the profession. My first job was in a corporate practice in Portsmouth, and I have some fond memories of being at the forefront of this new trend.
Since then the inexorable march of the corporate practice has forever changed the landscape of the veterinary profession in this country. The sheer number of corporate-owned practices means that, for many vets, and especially for newly graduated vets, a corporate employer will be all they know. Independent practices are becoming less the norm, especially in the small animal sector, and there is an almost inevitability that many of these will succumb to the lure of the corporate pound at some stage.
So the corporates have ensured the survival of many practices that may otherwise have disappeared into the annals of history. They provide employment for many young vets and formulate development programmes that support new graduates. They aim for gold standard care and try to achieve this within a financially sustainable environment. The usual mantra from the corporates is that they allow vets to be vets rather than managers, they enable them to concentrate on the stuff that matters, rather than the humdrum financial and management issues that many vets have little or no interest in. They have experts in human resources and management to do all of the non-veterinary stuff. But is there a way of incorporating (pun intended) vets in a more positive way so we’re more than ‘just vets’?
Fast forward to 2030 and I believe the profession is likely to be predominantly corporate based. Personally I would feel more comfortable if, over the years, something of a paradigm shift had occurred in the way vets viewed their roles. I am hoping, at some stage, the penny will have dropped and the powers that be at teaching institutions will have recognised the need for an increased amount of business training being an integral part of the undergraduate degree. It’s not the sexy end of the job, but needs must and it is an everyday skill that is sadly lacking in many vets today. I remain optimistic that the many development programmes that the corporates of today have in place will have translated into a new breed of vet who is comfortable with the multiple roles of vet/manager/financial expert. Ideally vets would be as comfortable reading balance sheets as blood results and be able to make decisions affecting ‘their’ practices with the knowledge and authority that will ultimately impact on their own lives, and those of their patients, in a positive way.