New Vets: More emotional, less scientific

A new study recently published in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education shows an interesting shift happening in the psychological makeup of incoming veterinary students. The authors have been giving the infamous Myers Briggs personality test to new students at the Louisiana State University for the past 12 years. For the first eight years of the testing, the key personality traits of the students were the following:

– Quiet and reserved.

– Organized and methodical. They generally succeed in the things they do.

– Focused on structure. Want to do things “by the book.”

– Prefer to work alone, but will work with teams when they have to.

– Tend to beat themselves up for mistakes they make.

Now compare this to the key traits of students from the past four years of testing:

– Great desire to serve others. They “need to be needed.”

– They value security and kindness.

– They respect traditions and laws. Family is a very important part of their lives.

– Terrible delegators.

So we’ve seen a shift from more “scientific” thinking to more “emotional” thinking. This isn’t just about gender. Yes, more women are graduating from vet schools than ever before. But the study’s authors indicate that the trend towards “feeling types” exists for male and female students.

Tough to extrapolate too far with this data. But it certainly suggests that tomorrow’s veterinarians will have new issues to deal with. Will they be willing to take on the risks and uncertainty associated with owning practices? It doesn’t seem to me that young veterinarians focused on “security” who are not strong leaders (“terrible delegators”) will be searching out practices to buy. More likely, these men and women will be drawn to the comfort of an ongoing concern where they can do their work and keep the tradition alive.

If this trend holds up it bodes well for groups like us who are investing in the industry. Although this data suggests the shift began four years ago, our own anecdotes suggest the impact is being felt by the industry in a more meaningful way. Veterinarians we speak with tell us that fewer associates are interesting in ownership. They want to focus on family. They’re not interested in working long hours. All consistent with the results of the survey.