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September 15, 2021

HOD passes resolution on workforce issues

AVMA also adjusts policies on residues, drugs, and research animals
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Veterinary practitioners feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day may think their workload is a consequence of too many “pandemic pets” and too few veterinarians to meet the surge in demand. Yet, as Matthew Salois, PhD, the AVMA’s chief veterinary economist, explained July 29 during the AVMA House of Delegates’ Veterinary Information Forum, reality is often more complicated.

Productivity and efficiency in veterinary care has taken a significant hit as a result of COVID-19, Dr. Salois said. High staff attrition is also contributing to that sense of having too much work. He and Dr. Gail Golab, the AVMA’s chief veterinary officer, elaborate more on the current landscape of the veterinary workforce in a commentary in this issue (see story).

AVMA House of Delegates meeting in Chicago
The AVMA House of Delegates met in Chicago for its regular annual session. Among other things, delegates passed a series of minor revisions to the AVMA’s “Policy on Use of Random-Source Dogs and Cats for Research, Teaching, and Education.” (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

Multifaceted problems

During the comment period following Dr. Salois’ presentation on the veterinary workforce, several VIF attendees spoke about how the professionwide underutilization of veterinary technicians has contributed to practice inefficiencies and high turnover.

Practice owners can’t retain their veterinary technicians because the owners have failed at providing the veterinary technicians with a professional identity within the business, according to Dr. Wendy Hauser, the American Animal Hospital Association delegate to the HOD.

“We ask them to be janitors instead of aligning their talents and passions to the mission of the practice,” Dr. Hauser said.

Dr. Amanda Bisol, Maine’s delegate in the HOD, suggested the AVMA could aid in elevating the professional status of veterinary technicians by advocating for uniform education standards nationwide and licensing requirements in every state.

On July 30, delegates voted during their regular annual session in Chicago to approve a resolution that calls for the AVMA Board of Directors to consider issuing the following statement to the profession:

“Your AVMA recognizes the economic, staffing, and morale challenges that currently exist in the U.S. veterinary workforce. Your AVMA is working on these complex problems and will be delivering information to aid in your understanding of these issues, including JAVMA articles going forward, as well as providing tools to assist you, such as convening the economic summit in the fall of 2021 with a focus on these issues.”

Actions on resolutions

AVMA leaders also adjusted policies to add or expand statements about veterinarians’ importance in animal health. And they amended a policy on how dogs and cats are acquired for research.

Members of the HOD also revised the “Policy on Veterinary Foresight and Expertise in Antimicrobial Discussions,” which now includes a statement that veterinarians are responsible for medical decisions, antimicrobial stewardship, and oversight of antimicrobial use in animals.

The delegates also agreed to edit the “Policy on Notification to the Veterinarian of Violative Residues in Foods of Animal Origin” to expand the scope of the policy beyond pharmaceuticals and into residues from pesticides and environmental contaminants. They also removed the previous policy’s call for public notification about all residue violations and expanded on language calling for federal regulators and animal owners to work with veterinarians once violations are identified.

In another vote, the delegates passed a series of minor revisions to the AVMA’s “Policy on Use of Random-Source Dogs and Cats for Research, Teaching, and Education.”

Some of those revisions are intended to reflect that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is phasing out licensing of Class B dealers that acquire and sell animals, often from multiple sources, as opposed to Class A dealers that sell animals bred and raised in their own facilities or in closed or stable colonies, according to information given to delegates. Other changes are intended for clarity and alignment with the principles of reduction, replacement, and refinement of use of animals in research.

Among the changes, the policy now includes explanations of why scientists might need dogs or cats beyond those purpose bred for research, and those dogs may include “random source” animals that are acquired from sources such as animal shelters, city animal control departments, and breeders. The new policy also notes that researchers justify such use before an institutional animal care and use committee.

The delegates considered amending and combining three AVMA policies on drug compounding, but the delegates decided against doing so over concerns that what constitutes sufficient evidence to demonstrate a compounded product’s safety, efficacy, and stability is not consistently defined and rigorous evidence may not be readily available. Delegates noted that veterinarians use compounded drugs to treat myriad zoo animals, birds, reptiles, and wild mammals, and the House voted instead to refer the policy back to the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents for revisions.

The delegates also considered combining three policies on prescriptions into a singular “Policy on Use of Prescription Drugs in Veterinary Medicine” but decided to also refer the policy back to the COBTA, this time to address concerns about language related to drug labeling.

Guidelines for candidates

Finally, the delegates also enacted new rules for candidates for AVMA president, president-elect, and vice president. Candidates can still seek endorsements prior to their official introductions to the House of Delegates as candidates, but they are now prohibited from announcing those endorsements or seeking voting commitments from delegates prior to that introduction.

Under the modified rules, the AVMA prohibits candidates from receiving campaign funding—for travel or other expenses—from employers or corporate sponsors.

The rules also now include a statement that candidates and their supporters should not give delegates anything valued at more than $10. And the update adds guidelines for candidates’ use of social media.

The updated rules state that House Advisory Committee members should refrain from campaigning for candidates, other than themselves, and they note that the AVMA Board of Directors has adopted a policy that district directors and officers also should refrain from campaigning for candidates other than themselves.