The shortage of doctors in rural Australia’s been well publicised, but more disguised, is a similar problem in the field of veterinary science.
The Australian Veterinary Association’s Peter Holm suggests that Tasmania may be short 15 or 20 vets.
Mr Holm says the shortage exists despite substantial numbers of graduates emerging from University.
He says many prefer to work a 38 hour week, are not able or interested in working in remote or rural practices, and women graduates in particular, have the additional challenge of balancing a career with raising a family.
Mr Holm says the recruiting process for veterinary undergraduates is being reviewed, to try to attract more candidates with an interest in rural practice.
Eileen Wronski is a mixed practice vet from Huonville in southern Tasmania.
“Mixed practice means I treat large animals as in cows, horses, alpaca’s, sheep and small animals, cats and dogs and birds and bits and pieces” she explains.
After nearly 20 years Eileen still likes being in rural practice. “I wouldn’t like to do full time cow practice or something like that in a dairy area but mixed practice offers good variety and I have contact with a lot of real salt of the earth people who are just wonderful to work with” she says.
However it’s not an easy job to do, Eileen is the only vet in her practice and this means she is on call at all times seven days a week, 24 hours a day. At the end of the month Eileen has to attend a conference and for the two weeks she will be away she has no choice but to close the practice and send clients elsewhere for treatment. When she is at work it can at times be a family affair.
“People get use to me turning up with the kids in the car, mum of the household takes off with my children or they go and play with their children and I spend half an hour with the stock and then fifteen minutes rounding up my kids up and getting them in the car” she jokes.
Eileen says “I think women naturally tend to get torn between family commitments when they have children and I think a lot of women go into the career without actually thinking about what a family commitment will mean on their lifestyle and on their work requirements”.
For Eileen though, it’s nice to be out in the open space despite it all.
“Sometimes it’s just wonderful driving around the country side and enjoying the beautiful scenery… you know you can take five deep breaths away from the hustle of working in the clinic.”
In this report: Eileen Wronski, Huonville vet.