Dr. Arce is president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.Read Articles Written by Jose Arce
We all continue to feel the disruptions of COVID-19, which has created a wide range of challenges across our workforce while exacerbating issues that existed pre-pandemic. As your national association, the American Veterinary Medical Association is evaluating the spectrum of complex factors driving these challenges and analyzing the impacts of various approaches to ensure that when solutions are implemented, they will have the best chance of success in both the short and long term.
We truly believe that collaboration is key as we navigate through these difficult times, and we thank Dr. Bob Lester for his article “Up, Up and Away!” [December 2021/January 2022] in which he provided his perspective on this critical topic and his thoughts on our September 2021 JAVMA article “Are We in a Veterinary Workforce Crisis?”
Dr. Lester has suggested solutions in the areas of:
- The well-being of our teams.
- Fully utilizing every member of those teams, particularly our veterinary technicians, who are so critical to maximizing the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of health care delivery.
- Finding the best ways to integrate technology, including — but not only — telemedicine, into our practices.
Those are things we strongly support.
Collaboration is equally important as we work to understand our true workforce needs going forward. We are diligently researching these issues, and we empathize with veterinarians, who are working harder and more hours than ever before. Many factors are affecting our workforce, including:
- Practice operations that have been severely impacted by COVID-19.
- More veterinarians opting for relief work as they seek to improve work-life balance.
- Increased demand for high-value veterinary services.
- Growth in veterinary practice size and number.
- Private and/or public practice shortages in some rural areas.
Exacerbating these challenges are the shortages and high turnover of our practice staff, making it all the more critical that we support our valued veterinary technicians, who are so key to our success and determine additional ways to increase practice efficiency.
Again, collaboration is essential for our profession to address these issues. The AVMA is currently conducting a major update to our profession’s veterinary workforce model, previously published in 2013, which will help us understand future demand for veterinary care, including the required supply of veterinarians and further assess shortages in veterinary personnel.
When it comes to increasing the flow of veterinarians into the workforce and/or introducing a new midlevel practitioner, it is critical to know there truly is a need for such changes. Any major adjustments to the profession’s workforce should be strategic, not reactionary, so that the solutions we choose to implement will allow us to continue to provide quality care for our patients and excellent service for our clients, both now and into the future.
Dr. Lester said, “Technology is an opportunity, not a threat.” We agree wholeheartedly. The AVMA recognizes the tremendous benefits and opportunities that telehealth, including but not limited to telemedicine, brings to veterinary practices, including better continuity of care, increased productivity, a deeper connection with clients, more efficient delivery of existing services and a chance to add new ones. That’s why the AVMA has provided the most comprehensive information and practical guidance for the practice of veterinary telemedicine available to date (bit.ly/37DVKji).
Speaking on behalf of our association and personally, feedback from veterinarians across the country has been, and will continue to be, inspiring and invaluable — and we’ll keep listening. Even when there may be disagreement on proposed solutions, we cannot overemphasize how important open communication and collaboration on these issues are if we hope to achieve successful and sustainable solutions. Each of us has an important role to play as we work toward solutions as a community. We are confident that we will emerge from the pandemic a stronger profession, in large part thanks to the experiences and wisdom shared by our colleagues from across the profession.