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Veterinarian shortages causing backup at animal hospitals

Vet Shortage
Posted at 12:45 PM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 16:07:00-05

DENVER, Co. — Across the country, there is a growing problem of a shortage of veterinarians. Now, with the pandemic, vets across the country are trying to change this problem.

“We’ve had a growing shortage of veterinarians just to the simple fact that we don’t have enough vet schools, and schools are too small,” said Mark Cushing, with the Animal Policy Group.

The demand for veterinary services keeps growing across the country, especially when the pandemic hit fueling the so-called ‘puppy boom.’

“Unfortunately, a lot of those puppies didn’t get socialized because of COVID,” said Dr. Jamie Freyer, a veterinarian. “So, a lot of these people are ending up with dogs with behavioral issues that they need help for now.”

However, clinics are having trouble attracting and keeping staff, and COVID precautions have complicated workflows.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the veterinarian turnover rate is twice the amount of a physician.

The pandemic has just increased that burnout rate.

“You have Baby Boomers that are the largest vets practicing retiring,” Cushing said. “At about 2,000 vets a year, we barely keep up with that replacement.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, vet jobs are expected to grow 17% from 2020 to 2030, and approximately 4,400 vet jobs will open every year on average for the next 10 years.

This is why Cushing is advocating for the country to open more vet schools to help with the shortage.

“There’s a series of steps that I’m pushing very hard, most importantly creating a vet version of a physician assistant,” Cushing said. “Vet medicine has always been a little slow to pick up on human healthcare trends, but they provided me a guide path to what we ought to do.”

Because of the shortage, many animal hospitals and clinics are booked, and some for weeks in advance.

“People can end up sitting in their car for six or seven hours at an emergency clinic,” Freyer said.

That is why Freyer is trying to help pet owners with some options they can take to help their animals out.

“Telemedicine can be a really great idea,” Freyer said. “The vets have some things that they can’t tell you but they can give you an idea whether your pets need to see right then and what things you need to watch out for if it’s time to go in.”