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Time with peers, developing their expertise, and receiving a simple thank you are key factors that make vets feel good at work, according to new research from the University of Adelaide.

With Australia suffering a shortage of vets, especially in rural areas, lead researcher Madeleine Clise said that by focusing on the positive, the study aimed to discover what could be done to retain vets and attract more people into the profession.

273 Australian vets were asked to finish the sentence, ‘I derive pleasure from my work as a veterinarian when…’. They were given space to provide up to 10 responses, and most did, resulting in over 2500 responses.

Researchers grouped the vets’ responses into themes and sub-themes and categorised them according to the ‘Job Demands-Resources Model’, which focuses on the positive resources and negative demands of a job as indicators of employee wellbeing.

They found “an abundance of factors” beyond working with and helping animals that gave vets pleasure at work. In fact, positive relationships with clients and colleagues were cited more frequently than positive relationships with animals.

“Vets, just like all of us, feel good when they are shown trust and respect,” said Clise. “And a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way.”

Many respondents also said they enjoyed having opportunities to use and develop their specialised skills. Other factors that were frequently mentioned included successful patient outcomes, a positive workplace culture, and opportunities to collaborate with other vets.

Senior author Dr. Michelle McArthur said managers and practice managers could use these results to improve the work environment, for example by introducing a recognition system, giving vets more time with colleagues, and introducing peer supervision or mentoring to help vets learn from each other.

Vets also said they felt happy at work when they believed they were showing certain positive traits, such as flexibility, accomplishment and a positive attitude.

“Veterinarian work is such a rewarding profession and it’s important that we share the many positives with new veterinarians and those in training as reassurance, and to encourage others to join the profession,” said Dr. McArthur.

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