Politics & Policy columnist Mark Cushing is a political strategist, lawyer, founding partner of the Animal Policy Group and founding member of the Veterinary Virtual Care Association. Since 2004, he has specialized in animal health, animal welfare, and veterinary educational issues and accreditation. He is the author of “Pet Nation: The Inside Story of How Companion Animals Are Transforming Our Homes, Culture and Economy.”Read Articles Written by Mark Cushing
The Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine is launching a master’s program in veterinary clinical care, drawing on the Veterinary Innovation Council’s pioneering work in recognizing midlevel professionals as part of the solution to the shortage of veterinarians and the challenges with access to care. People from both sides have strong opinions about creating midlevel veterinary professionals, but unfortunately, many of the views are based on speculation and fears that don’t reflect the straightforward goals and structure of the LMU program. This article attempts to clear things up.
Q: When does the program start?
A: August 2022.
Q: Is the master of veterinary clinical care degree accredited?
A: Yes, by the regional accrediting body for Lincoln Memorial’s other master’s and doctoral programs. This is the third master’s program offered by the College of Veterinary Medicine.
Q: Is the curriculum online or in-person?
A: It’s online and taught in conjunction with LMU’s doctor of veterinary medicine curriculum. Clinical training will occur at the student’s veterinary practice or place of work in the animal health sector. (Click here to see the curriculum.)
Q: How many semesters does the degree require, and what is the total cost?
A: The program covers three semesters, but students can proceed at their own pace, meaning they can study part time over more semesters. Completion of the degree requires at least 30 credits. The total tuition, assessed by the credit hour, will be $20,000 to $25,000. Completion of the degree requires at least 30 credits.
Q: What are the academic prerequisites for admission?
A: The first two cohorts admitted into the program must be credentialed veterinary technicians/nurses with a bachelor’s degree. They will have completed core biology and chemistry courses. In the future, non-CVTs can enroll without a bachelor’s degree but must meet the core biology and chemistry course requirements.
Q: Does the program lead to a new type of license?
A: No. The process of changing state veterinary practice acts is long and difficult, and it invites opposition from human health care groups, such as was encountered by the Veterinary Nurse Initiative. The LMU curriculum will create a veterinary version of a physician assistant. Due diligence by the Veterinary Innovation Council and the College of Veterinary Medicine confirmed that practices and industry would employ the midlevel professionals at an appropriate level.
Q: What type of work or jobs are envisioned for master in veterinary clinical care (MVCC) graduates?
A: Practices and industry experts predict two career paths involving promotions:
- Incorporating their experience as a credentialed veterinary technician/nurse with MVCC medical training, the professional will be able to manage the care delivery system, including training and oversight of paraprofessional staff, freeing up veterinarians to practice medicine.
- Much like physician assistants, these professionals will be able to work up cases under the supervision of veterinarians, freeing up DVMs to see more patients and focus on higher-value services. Practice acts do not restrict such a scenario provided the veterinarian signs off on a diagnosis, prognosis, treatment plan or prescription. The medical training uniquely prepares the MVCC graduate to take on those roles and earn higher compensation.
Q: How can veterinary technicians/nurses afford the tuition?
A: Due diligence convinced LMU that practices and companies would cover the cost in exchange for continued service, particularly during this era of acute shortages of veterinary professionals. Scholarship programs are coming into existence for veterinary technicians/nurses from the shelter community, too. In addition, students can pay as they go to reduce their debt while they continue to work full time.
Additional details about Lincoln Memorial University’s master in veterinary clinical care are at bit.ly/3HUwFAQ.