Workforce: What our profession really needs

Published on September 13, 2023

Understand the risks of a midlevel position and virtual VCPR

The past few years have been extremely challenging for veterinary practices and teams. We saw an increase in client demand early in the pandemic, and practices have had team members leave at all levels, at least temporarily. 

While we continue to face workforce challenges, client demand is beginning to return to a pre-pandemic norm. As individuals and as a profession, we’re searching for solutions to ensure that our practices are able to care for patients now and long into the future.

What are the right—and wrong—answers?

Unfortunately, some of the suggestions being offered propose significant risks—including risks to the health of our animal patients.

AVMA’s president, Dr. Rena Carlson, exposes these risks in an article published Tuesday in Today’s Veterinary Business.

Among the points she makes:

  • Estimates that suggest there will be a shortage of companion animal veterinarians by 2030 are based on faulty math. 
  • In reality, the number of companion animal veterinarians is projected to grow more than 20% by 2030—even before accounting for an expected influx of graduates from new veterinary schools now in development.
  • There have been calls for the introduction of a midlevel position, but there are no agreed-upon curriculum, accreditation standards, or national assessment test for such a position. This infrastructure would be needed to protect animals and the public, and it would take decades to develop.
  • Claims of a crisis-level workforce shortage also are driving proposals to allow a virtual veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). But allowing animals to be treated without a previously established in-person VCPR puts animal health at grave risk. An in-person exam gives the veterinarian information about the animal and its owner that can’t be discovered in any other way. This information is critical to support accurate and timely diagnosis.
  • There are effective steps we can take in the short term to help alleviate the pressures our veterinary teams are facing. These include fully engaging veterinary technicians, veterinary technologists, and veterinary technician specialists, and empowering them to put their full skills and training to work.

Dr. Carlson’s article is a timely, short, and critical read for all who are invested in and care about veterinary patients and our profession. Read it now on Today’s Veterinary Business.


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