What does a day in the life of a vet in the country look like?
"Anything but dull," Dubbo vet of 37 years Dr Duncan McGinness says.
"In the morning you could be saving bloodline stock worth millions of dollars to a farmer and the economy. Then in the afternoon, sharing a cheeky belly-rub with a family's pet at the end of a check-up," he said.
"It's that diversity driving us to get vets to country areas so we can continue to provide that specialised healthcare to all creatures - great and small."
This weekend, over 60 of Australia's top veterinary students descended upon Dubbo to get hands-on experience at local veterinary practices and the Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
Dr McGinness - who coordinated the visit - hopes it will inspire the next-generation vets from Sydney University and Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga to consider working in a country area when they graduate.
"Those who have taken up the challenge of study are finding themselves facing early career choices - 'do I practise veterinary medicine in a city environment or the country?'," said Dr McGinness
"In my experience, the country offers a greater range of veterinary clinical challenges and can be a real turbo charge for an emerging vet's career simply through the breadth and depth of clinical demands placed on their skills."
Like many fields, animal medicine has been feeling the squeeze of a skills shortage with regional areas significantly affected pre, during and post COVID.
However, Dr McGinness said he is seeing signs of growth in Dubbo as qualified vets move to the region looking for a "tree change".
"Vets now, especially at our practice, are seeing better working conditions with more flexibility," he added.
"What we do as vets can be very challenging and, like most high-pressure professions, we've had difficulties and challenges retaining qualified and practicing vets nationally.
Improving work-life balance, job-sharing and part-time opportunities and giving vets greater flexibility and improving vet welfare is bearing fruit for practices like ours."
The university student's two-day field visit to Dubbo was subsidised by local vets and corporate sponsors. Students heard from those already working in the field, toured local clinics and tried their hand at some everyday procedures.
As well as offering more varied clinical experience, Dr McGinness said moving to a regional area could provide cost-of-living relief for the Sydney-based students when they graduate.
"Living in regional areas provides significantly more flexibility," he said.
"[It's] ideal for vets entering the workforce, or vets who've gained skills in the city but want greater clinical challenges without the added expensive burden of paying for a life in the city to pursue their veterinary careers."
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