The U.S. House’s first-ever Veterinary Medicine Caucus gathered on Capitol Hill for its inaugural meeting July 25 to discuss workforce issues in the veterinary medical profession.
AVMA Director of Veterinary Economics Dr. Michael Dicks led the discussion, focusing on the 2013 U.S. Veterinary Workforce Study, which AVMA released in April. The study looked at the current and future supply of and demand for veterinarians and veterinary services by employment sector and geographic region.
“One of the main things that this study looked at is ‘excess capacity,’ which is an economics term that refers to the relationship between the ability of veterinarians to provide services and the quantity of those services that consumers are willing to pay for at current prices,” Dr. Dicks explained. “For instance, in the study we asked veterinarians if they felt that they are operating at full potential and more than half—53 percent—said they are working at less than full capacity, meaning they could potentially take on more clients in a given work day. This means that in 2012, 12.5 percent of veterinarians’ capacity to provide services were going unused, which if current trends continue, could be problematic for the profession.”
The study looked at a number of factors to make this determination, including pet numbers and veterinary visits by demographics, the estimated numbers of livestock and equine, and the time spent by veterinarians in animal care by practice type.
Though more veterinarians are reporting excess capacity in the market and within their own practices, unemployment rates within the profession have remained fairly low, Dr. Dicks explained. However, given the increasing rate of graduates entering the field and the fact that demand for veterinary services has been flat since 2008, the profession must look at innovative ways to increase the demand for its services.
“By educating the public on the importance of preventive care through annual check-ups for pets, such as with the Partners for Healthy Pets program, you can increase the amount of visits to the veterinarian, thus eliminating some of that excess capacity,” said AVMA’s Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Dr. Ron DeHaven. “This is a great opportunity to not only support our small business veterinarians, but also to improve the health of our nation’s pets.”
The workforce study has served as a starting point to better understand some of the economic issues that are affecting the U.S. veterinary profession and AVMA, through its new workforce model, hopes that it can continue filling in some of the gaps that were identified in the study to paint a clearer picture of the current and future veterinary workforce.
“This is just one of many briefings the House Veterinary Medicine Caucus will hold to increase awareness among Members of Congress and Capitol Hill staff regarding our veterinary health professionals, the issues they face and the future of their profession,” said U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.). “Much like our veterinarians, this bipartisan caucus is willing to work with whomever necessary to continue to promote public and animal health and ensure that our food remains the safest in the world.”
The bipartisan Veterinary Medicine Caucus, launched in March by U.S. Reps. Schrader and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), aims to increase awareness of the importance of veterinary medicine on research, public health, animal health and welfare, food safety and the overall economy. Counting the chairs, the caucus currently has 13 members, including Representatives: Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), John Duncan (R-Tenn.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.), David Joyce (R-Ohio), Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).