Objective To describe changes in the initial work experiences of veterinary graduates over the last 50 years.
Design A questionnaire, sent by mail.
Procedure A questionnaire seeking information on work experience as a recent graduate was sent to about 100 veterinarians who graduated in or about each of 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000, and 68% responded. Data were entered onto an Excel spreadsheet, and analysed with the SAS System 8 for Windows.
Results The first veterinary position for about half the graduates of 1950 and 1960 was in government service. Since then an increasing percentage have started in small animal practice; the rest in mixed practice. Many earlier graduates worked alone and for long hours, with little or no respite after hours. Since 1950, the average recent graduate in private practice has worked progressively fewer hours with less after hours duty, and has worked with progressively more other veterinarians. Cattle were almost half the cases seen by graduates of 1950 and 1960. Dogs and cats were about 20% of the cases seen by those graduates, but this percentage ncreased progressively and was 77% of the cases seen by the graduates of 2000. Distemper was the most common transmissible disease of dogs seen by graduates of1950ndash;1970, but by few since then. Graduates of 1980 saw parvovirus most commonly; those of 2000 saw parvovirus and kennel/canine cough in about equal numbers. Two other major changes in canine cases seen by recent graduates have involved skin conditions, which increased progressively between 1950 and 2000, and trauma, mainly involving vehicles, which decreased as dogs have been restrained more effectively. Fracture repair was the most common surgical procedure performed by recent graduates between 1950 and 1970, but with decreasing incidence of trauma this has been overtaken by the removal of lumps and repair of lacerations. Barbiturates were used extensively by recent graduates for both induction and maintenance of anaesthesia, but with increasing use of anaesthetic machines from 1960 onwards, halothane and more recently isoflurane have largely taken their place for the maintenance of anaesthesia.
Conclusions Over the last five decades, the average recent graduate has had progressively more opportunity for support and advice from other veterinarians, to work more sociable hours, and to work with a narrower range of species, especially dogs and cats.