Fact Finders: Are we facing a veterinarian shortage?

“I have noticed longer than usual wait times to get my pets into my veterinarian clinic, is there a shortage of veterinarians?”
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 9:20 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - We’ve heard much about a tight labor market in the last two and a half years. This week’s Fact Finders is related to that topic. Our viewer says, “I have noticed longer than usual wait times to get my pets into my veterinarian clinic. Is there a shortage of veterinarians?

The American Veterinary Medical Association is studying this issue. The organization says, “those supplying services in rural areas and those in emergency and specialty practices have been overwhelmed during the pandemic.”

The group cites several factors for what you may have noticed. One; the pandemic increased burnout. Another, The AVMA says the pandemic hurt productivity... with vets spending more time with each patient and seeing fewer pets overall. And.., that can create backlogs.

The AVMA does not clearly state there’s a shortage. It says, “we still don’t have a complete picture of what is happening in our economy and how that influences our labor force needs.”

But Mars Veterinary Health is much more direct. It says the industry is facing a chronic shortage of veterinary professionals. And that includes a need for more veterinary technicians or vet nurses.

“The tremendous shortage of veterinary technicians makes for less efficiency in veterinarians treating people’s animals if they don’t have the trained staff to be able to place a catheter and begin administering the anesthesia. Monitoring the anesthesia during a surgical procedure is just a lot more difficult, and it decreases efficiency,” explained the interim Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Leah Cohn.

As for solutions, out in Arizona, lawmakers passed a bill that will provide student loan reimbursement of up to 100-thousand dollars for veterinarians who graduate from school starting this January. One of the requirements, the students must work in Arizona for at least four years.

Meantime, Dr. Cohn with the University of Missouri says to plan ahead, be patient and stay up to date on heartworm medications and vaccinations.

Circling back to the viewer’s question, “Is there a shortage of veterinarians?

If we alter the question slightly to; Is there a shortage of veterinary staff...? You’ll find universal agreement. So, with that change, we’ll slide this to yes.

If you do not alter the viewer’s question, The AVMA is not ready to declare there’s a shortage, as mentioned earlier. But other groups, including lawmakers in Arizona and Mars Veterinary Health researchers, see a need for more veterinarians in the workforce.

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