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Written by Lauren Katims Dogster
As the number of pet parents increases, so does the strain on the veterinary workforce. According to a Mars Veterinary Health Report, the United States is experiencing a veterinarian shortage that, if not addressed, could leave 75 million pets without care by 2030.
Why are we having a shortage of veterinarians?
Experts agree that the increase in families bringing pets into their homes during the COVID pandemic put a strain on the services required from the veterinarian community.
Aside from there not being enough physical space to care for pets, particularly in emergency vet hospitals, where patients are regularly being turned away, the veterinarians on duty are working longer and harder hours, leading to higher rates of turnover.
“It saddens me to hear stories from across the country of emergency veterinary clinics having to shut down due to being short-staffed or overwhelmed,” says Dr. Louis DelGiudice, National Emergency Specialty Director of AmeriVet Veterinary Partners.
Over the next decade, to meet the healthcare services needed to accommodate the influx of pets, the Mars health report states that the United States will need about 41,000 additional veterinarians and nearly 133,000 vet techs to join the workforce.
What’s being done to address the veterinary shortage?
Organizations are working on furthering veterinary education programs. This year, the VCA animal hospitals partnered with Vet Set Go to give kids nationwide an opportunity to explore their interests in veterinary medicine with the hope of it blossoming into a career.
According to research by Vet Set Go, veterinary medicine professionals often decide to pursue animal health as their career before 13 years old. Through this partnership, teenagers will train with veterinarians to get a realistic expectation and understanding of what it’s like to care for animals.
“We are providing aspiring veterinarians with resources and opportunities that otherwise are not easily available to young people,” says Dr. Chris Carpenter, Founder and President, Vet Set Go.
Other efforts to widen the veterinary field include the launch of a new multi-year program called Journey for Teams — a partnership by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Veterinary Medical Association Executives to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the nation’s veterinary profession.
Improving the health of each veterinarian
Many veterinarians struggle with mental health issues, both because of the increased workload and the emotional highs and lows that naturally come with working in a high-stress healthcare career. In fact, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that veterinarians and veterinarian technicians have a higher suicide rate than the general population.
Efforts are being made to bring awareness to veterinarians’ mental health concerns. During Suicide Prevention Month in September, The Race Around the World is a month-long fundraiser that tracks the miles participants move, whether it’s biking, walking, running or horseback riding, and raises funds for the nonprofit Not One More Vet (NOMV). NOMV supports veterinarians struggling with mental health issues through peer support, outreach and awareness.
To learn more about this organization and how you can help, visit nomv.org.