A Wake-up Call for the Animal Healthcare Industry
WIMBERLEY, Texas, Dec. 19, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Coalition for the Veterinary Professional Associate (CVPA) brings the veterinary shortage crisis to the forefront with a wake-up call for the animal healthcare industry. The CVPA is composed of many veterinary industry professionals who have dedicated their lives to the animal healthcare industry for many years, and we have watched the veterinary shortage bring our industry to an abyss, having far-reaching effects from food animal to shelter medicine and everything in between. National, Regional, State, and local news agencies have broadcast, printed, and blogged about the veterinarian and veterinary technician shortage for years (to view news articles, click here).
The animal healthcare industry has been facing an alarming issue for many years – the veterinary shortage crisis. This issue has significantly strained practitioners, creating a domino effect that results in long visitation wait times for companion animal clients and patients, lack of care in equine and bovine practice areas, and major challenges in shelter medicine. Moreover, access to care is diminishing, which is an alarming situation that has caught the attention of national, regional, State, and local news agencies. Despite the widespread evidence of a crisis within the industry and the extensive media coverage, the AVMA’s lack of understanding and action ultimately delays solutions to this crisis.
Just 60 or 70 years ago, all veterinarians were everything to everyone. However, looking back historically, significant changes started to occur in our industry, including in the 1970s emergency clinics for small animals; the 1980s through 1990s brought specialization and those specialists moving from academia to provide specialty services in private practice. In the decade of the 2000s, we saw Shelter-based High Volume Spay Neuter services. These changes were met with trepidation and fear in the profession but are now all essential parts of the fabric of the profession.
Today, we stand at the cusp of additional paradigm shifts and new solutions to critical Access to Care challenges that must be addressed more aggressively. We are paying the price for 35 years (1978-2013), where we opened only one new veterinary university and did not grow veterinary school graduate numbers in the face of a population growth of nearly 100 million people.
Here are some Compelling Facts to Ponder
- There are 12,173 job openings for veterinarians in the US on the job board.
Reference: Indeed – Veterinarians
- There are 7,567 job openings for veterinary technicians in the US on the job board.
Reference: Indeed – Veterinary Technicians
- There are 6,988 job openings for veterinary assistants in the US on the job board.
- Reference: Indeed – Veterinary Assistants
- 40% of Shelters are without consistent vet services
- Only 38% of cats get to a veterinarian annually
- 500 Counties with limited to no veterinary services
- Emergency Hospitals experience pauses, and full-on closures are becoming routine
- We need more specialists for private practice, and especially in academia
Other Truths To Pursue….
The very first Veterinary Technician specialty was formed and supported by Dr. Robert Murtaugh and other leaders in the ECC realm.
“I am firmly in favor and very supportive of moving aggressively to provide title protection, elevate all our veterinary technicians to the top of their game, and work on other tools and resources for increasing practice efficiency,” states Murtaugh, Chair, Coalition for the Veterinary Professional Associate (CVPA).
We need to do more in parallel with those steps related to leveraging technicians and promoting practice efficiency. We must focus on BOLD action to increase the number of future providers. The AVMA should be leading the charge…we need to create and implement the Veterinary Professional Associate (VPA/mid-tier practitioner) position akin to the successful implementation of Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants in human medicine; we need to be aggressive in advocating for the start-up and funding for more veterinary schools and larger class sizes in existing programs.
In addition, we need to aggressively pursue increased visa options for license-qualified foreign veterinarians, many of which could help significantly on the regulatory, equine, poultry, and production animal sides of our profession.
Another pursuit is to fully adopt all the advantages of telemedicine and related technologies, including allowing for the establishment of a virtual VCPR at the discretion of licensed practitioners. Our cats, for one, would appreciate that move!
This present paradigm is a leadership challenge for everyone in the profession. We need to embrace and initiate these new paradigm changes required now as was done for those in the past, and we’ll all come out better on the other side.
What is the Legacy to be….
The current state of veterinary medicine is alarming, as pet owners and other stakeholders are finding it harder to access care for their animals. This issue in companion animal practice, for example, has resulted in long clinic wait times, lagging shelter surgeries, slowing adoption rates, and pet owners delaying their next visit. The most significant contributor to this crisis is the industry’s shortage of veterinarians and veterinary technicians. The demand is consistently high, and the supply of veterinary professionals is not, leading to this significant gap.
There are roadblocks that prevent interested individuals from joining the veterinary field. For example, veterinary technicians who enter the industry often experience overwhelming student debt in the face of a pay scale that barely provides for everyday living. As a result, many potential veterinary technician students and existing veterinary technicians choose other fields that provide more financial stability. The VPA role would help address this issue by providing additional career and economic growth opportunities for these existing veterinary professionals.
The limited number of accredited veterinary and veterinary technician schools in the U.S. is also one of the main contributors to the shortage of skilled animal care professionals. There are only 33 accredited veterinary schools in the country, compared to counterparts in human medicine at 155 (still too few) schools. Additionally, there are roughly 200 plus veterinary technician programs, graduating only 5,000 veterinary technicians each year.
Furthermore, veterinary schools are highly competitive, with an acceptance rate of 10 to 15 percent. This means that even if an individual is passionate about animal care and has the necessary qualifications, there is no guarantee of being accepted into a veterinary school program. This also means that education standards are quite high, so accredited veterinary school graduates are the best in the field. Establishing the VPA role would provide an additional pathway for career success to the many qualified unsuccessful applicants to veterinary schools.
What are other Parts of the Solution?
- One is to improve the working conditions and pay of animal care professionals, especially veterinary technicians, to improve retention.
- Additionally, both federal and state funding should be increased for veterinary and veterinary technician schools to help eliminate the financial challenges for students in obtaining their degrees.
- We also need to raise awareness and encourage young people to pursue veterinary careers to help close the gap.
Proactive action is needed NOW! The veterinary shortage crisis has been a wake-up call for the animal healthcare industry. The industry must take and advocate for the necessary measures to address this problem and enable a future of access to care for all Stakeholders.
What can I Personally do?
As an individual, you can help by reaching out to colleagues and alumni in your veterinary community and advocating for animal healthcare. The best way to get started is to contact your AVMA State Delegate at https://www.avma.org/about/house-delegates and the AVMA Board of Directors at https://www.avma.org/about/board-directors-and-avma-officers and share your thoughts, opinion, and recommendation for the current veterinarian and veterinary technician shortage. The AVMA House of Delegates will discuss veterinary workforce issues at the Veterinary Leadership Conference in early January 2024.
For animal/pet advocates, shelters, and other stakeholder organizations, contact your Congressperson, State Senators, Governor, and Lieutenant Governor.
YOUR VOICE DOES COUNT, SO MAKE IT HEARD.
It’s time we all come together as a community to address this urgent issue and prevent the crisis from worsening.
Bob Murtaugh, DVM, MS, DACVIM, DACVECC, FCCM
Mark Cushing, JD
Apryle Steele, DVM
Steven L May, CVJ, VRCE
Julie Stuckey, DNP, ANP, APNP-C
George Bottomley, DVM, PA-C
The CVPA is a 501c4 (pending) nonprofit association with over 32 expert veterinary professionals representing a wide variety of stakeholders in their respective fields nationwide. The active CVPA committees include Standards, Certification, and Accreditation; Governance and Finance, Legislative, Veterinary Industry Liaison; and Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations. With solid support from universities, rural settings, shelters, and companion animal environments, this Coalition has come together to lobby for and support the creation of these new mid-tier veterinary providers, Veterinary Professional Associates. To learn more, visit cvpa.vet.
Steven L May, CVJ, VRCE
E. [email protected]
SOURCE The Coalition for the Veterinary Professional Associate (CVPA)
Originally published at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-cvpa-brings-the-veterinary-shortage-crisis-situation-to-the-forefront-302018474.html
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