Continued from Why is There a Veterinary Shortage?
To Think About in Our Area
Our area doesn’t have an emergency clinic. Most veterinary clinics will see emergencies after hours, but the fee is prohibitive to many, and most clinics require the pet to already be established. During the pandemic, clinics in larger cities had the ability to refer to ER clinics. This resulted in a 40% increase in business to the ER clinics and extensive wait times but at least the pets received care.
Locally, each clinic typically has one vet on call. They can only see one pet at a time, and this holds true during working hours. Pets can’t tell us what is wrong and though veterinarians are highly skilled mind-readers, it takes time to figure it out.
Vets can’t rush anything. Many pets are already worried about being at the vet. Taking the necessary time to ensure your pet feels safe and there are no bite risks is critical. Be patient. Don’t expect to get in and out quickly at your veterinary clinic. Everyone tries to stick to a schedule but real life gets in the way every single day. Pets can’t tell time.
Veterinarians don’t just exist for our beloved companions. Veterinarians serve as Health Officers, are needed for FDA and within pharmaceutical and food companies. They work as food animal veterinarians, researchers and developers, and of course, teachers. This shortage is affecting far more than our pets.
How Can You Help Veterinarians and Vet Clinics Deal with Shortages?
Choose praise. It’s easy to complain. Everyone does it. If your vet let you down and another helped you out, praise the vet that helped. Please don’t cyber bully, give a bad review, or launch the keyboard warriors against the vet that couldn’t help you. Kindness is free and becoming almost as scarce as veterinarians.
Say thank you. Appreciation makes everything better. Leave a kind review.
Be established at more than one vet clinic. Don’t put all your eggs into one basket. Be understanding when there isn’t an appointment available. Have an alternative so your pet doesn’t go without.
Be proactive. With schedules staying packed for weeks and most clinics still working exclusively by appointment, you absolutely cannot put off care. Don’t let a minor issue become critical. Waiting just puts you, your pet, and the clinic in a bind.
Have the ability to pay before you arrive. Pet insurance now exists because the cost of veterinary care has increased so much. Look into it. Check out veterinary credit providers like Care Credit and Scratchpay. Set up a fundraiser, borrow money from a friend or loved one. Everything your vet provides cost them money from salaries to equipment. A vet that can’t pay their bills is one more vet not serving pets in their community.
If you are fortunate enough to have access to a veterinarian or support staff, please do not interrupt their incredibly valuable time off with vet related needs. Go through the proper channels. Starting your message with, “I’m sorry to bother you but…” doesn’t excuse it. Just don’t. You are one of 30 people that interrupt a veterinarian any given hour on any given weekend or weeknight. Veterinarians and staff must have time off to balance and reset. They need this so they can be the best they can be for you and your pets. A little-known fact is it is illegal for non-veterinarians to give any kind of veterinary advice, so you are endangering the livelihood of that technician when you text them for advice.
Set aside enough time. Do not go to the vet if you only have 30 minutes. You will likely have a bad experience and your frustration will prevent the kindness your vet clinic needs from you.
What is Being Done to Solve the Veterinarian Shortage?
Obviously, every clinic in the US is hiring. Great minds are at the table trying to figure out how to address the veterinary shortage and barriers to care. Some interesting ideas are being explored. The Veterinary equivalent to a Physician’s Assistant is being researched. Expanding the responsibilities that Veterinary Technicians can legally perform is being discussed. Additional vet schools, revamping the veterinary programs, and immigration restraints for international talent are all being investigated. National Animal Welfare funders are hoping to facilitate expansion of veterinary services within shelters and spay/neuter clinics and assist in forming relationships between non-profit and for-profit veterinary clinics.
None of these solutions will be fast or easy so in the meantime, do you best to keep your veterinarians, the support staff, and the clinics you use in business. Every clinic that closes, every veterinarian that quits leaves hundreds of pets without care.