I have seen many rural practices over the years, and the high quality service that is provided to the community by the local vet never ceases to amaze me. I have seen hospital facilities equal to anything in the city; I have seen great LA practices operating in very small communities, and prospering because they are servicing a robust, local rural economy – in many cases, the local vet practice is looked upon as the employer of choice in town. I have seen rural practices that would easily be in the top 5% of profitable practices anywhere in Australia, and I have seen some rural practices practicing at a level that they offer referral services to their colleagues from other practices.
The good news (in my opinion) is that this is where the best opportunities to enter our industry currently lie. So, why are veterinarians not looking west (or east in WA) to further their careers? I think this is slowly changing, with more graduates leaving our rural-based vet schools, but there are still opportunities going begging in good rural communities, with existing practices selling, offering partnerships or looking for associates who will become potential practice owners.
The other plus for rural practices is career advancement. Because of the relative lack of competition and absence of specialists, you have the opportunity to work with a number of different species and to ‘have a go’ at many cases that would be otherwise be referred in the city. A good point in question is orthopaedic surgery in small animals – it is not unusual to see rural practices operating at the high end of the spectrum, by performing such procedures as bone platings and TTAs. I have seen an orthopaedic practice, an avian practice, a behavioural practice, a feline practice and many reproduction practices all operating as sub-specialties within rural practices – all these practices were attracting referrals from their colleagues in the region – proof that working in the bush is no hindrance to one’s professional career.
One of the best reasons to consider spending career time in a rural area is being an integral and respected part of the community. It is not uncommon to find veterinarians on town councils, school boards, hospital boards, service clubs – the list of possibilities is endless. Most importantly, there is never a shortage of sports or social activities in country towns. It’s a great lifestyle; most rural communities lack for none of the big city attractions, but they can offer so much more. So, let’s think a bit laterally when it comes to seeking employment in our industry – there many great options to be had in rural Australia.