SINGAPORE - Lack of recognition and poor career progression have led to a shortage of veterinary staff in Singapore, a survey has found.
"After five years, only 20 per cent of the veterinary nursing alumni remain in the industry. Many veterinary nurses do not see being a nurse as a viable career path, as it has little progression and pay," said Dr Chow Haoting, president of the Singapore Veterinary Association (SVA).
The survey findings were released as part of a veterinary sector review update on Saturday (April 30) during the 13th edition of Pets' Day Out.
Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How, who was the guest of honour at the event, said more than half of the close to 400 respondents felt that vet paraprofessionals, such as vet technicians and nurses, could be better recognised, and have better career progression and development opportunities.
Almost all had called for regular reviews of professional standards for veterinarians and for them to be benchmarked against those of other developed countries.
They also want the promotion of lifelong learning for the profession.
The survey was conducted by the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) and the SVA in early 2021 across the veterinary sector.
Mr Tan said that after focus group discussions with industry players, several key areas have been identified for further study.
These included the need to better define the scope of veterinary activities, recognise the critical role of vets and vet paraprofessionals, uphold professional standards, and encourage continuing education in the profession.
A suggestion for the formation of a veterinary professional body will also be looked at.
Dr Chang Siow Foong, group director of AVS, added that better clarity on the scope of regulated veterinary activities would mean ensuring that only a trained person can perform proper veterinary-related tasks.
"This is to protect the health and welfare of the animals in Singapore by making sure they are being taken care of by trained personnel," said Dr Chang.
Dr Chow said the SVA is hoping that the recognition and standards of veterinary nurses can be improved with the review.
"We are working closely with multiple stakeholders to upgrade the skills of veterinary nurses to justify a higher wage and develop a sustainable career progression," he added.
AVS said it will continue to engage stakeholders and consider their views and feedback. It will share its recommendations over the coming months.
Saturday's event, which also celebrated World Veterinary Day, was held at Jurong Lake Gardens.
Pets' Day Out, which started in August 2019 and is held once every two months, serves as a platform for animal welfare groups, professionals, businesses, veterinarians and pet lovers to come together.
Mr Tan also launched the book Vets At Work, produced by SVA with AVS and other partners. It highlights the history of SVA and the significant contributions that Singapore's veterinary professionals have made to society over the years.
"Many in the veterinary community have shared with me how veterinary work is meaningful and fulfilling. We look forward to our vets' contributions in advancing the frontiers of veterinary science, animal health and welfare," said Mr Tan.