Helena Diffey is the past President of the Association of Veterinary Students UK and Ireland (AVS). In this role she represented vet students on a range of professional forums and coordinates the central AVS committee.
Helena is in her fifth year of study at the Royal Veterinary College, having intercalated in Global Health at Imperial College, London. She enjoys the great variety within veterinary medicine, from lab work to surgery, and has a wider interest in epidemiology, neglected diseases, policy making and veterinary education.
“Only half of recent graduates say their career has matched expectations,” revealed a survey from the Vet Futures project in 2015. As a student on the verge of beginning my career in the veterinary profession, this was a pretty distressing statistic to find out. I think this is why Vet Futures was so timely and this Action Plan so essential; the profession cannot afford to fail the next
generation of vets. How people gain satisfaction in their careers is clearly different for each individual. However, I can’t help
thinking that underlying the frustrations of young vets is a profession not ready for the millennial generation to which I belong. A generation with very different expectations of life and work, we desire careers with diversity, flexibility and challenge. Many of the actions in the Plan relate to issues within the veterinary profession itself. These are extremely important to tackle as
they are very real problems to those at all stages in their careers. Young vets, in particular, will struggle to progress without adequate mentoring and support, or viable opportunities to take a career break or to change direction.
Us millennial vets are also more acutely aware of how globalised our world is, with a strong sense of moral duty to make a positive impact. In my opinion, the global issues we face today, such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and food and environmental security, present the most exciting opportunities for the veterinary profession now and in the future. As a profession we need to work with other sectors and disciplines to extend our influence into areas of animal health and welfare beyond the veterinary practice. Our profession should be capitalising on the strengths and capabilities of the fantastic next generation of vets, not apologising for a lack of career options and letting them go. During the process of developing the Vet Futures Action Plan I have been fascinated to learn about innovative technologies on the near horizon that will undoubtedly completely change the way vets practise. UK veterinary education is already on the cutting-edge of science, nevertheless our Action Plan includes the consideration of different ways of training the veterinary workforce, in the interests of creating a wider role in society for the profession and improving career satisfaction.
I strongly believe that providing more choice and freedom for students to explore areas of personal interest during their training will, further to having a positive impact on wellbeing, create a more diverse, dynamic and resilient profession. Students need to be encouraged and rewarded, not least be given the time, for innovative and creative thinking. This is what will see us well into the future.