Where are all the vets?
Around the corner from the spacious Expo Hall locations filled by Idexx, Boehringer Ingelheim and Henry Schein Animal Health was Veterinary Healthcare Associates’ 10-by-10-foot booth.
Why would a 24-hour emergency hospital and general practice pay to exhibit at VMX 2019 among hundreds of manufacturers, distributors and service providers? Because Veterinary Healthcare Associates is preparing to expand and needs more veterinarians, from specialists to emergency doctors to general practitioners.
One might think that life in Winter Haven, Florida — halfway between Tampa and Orlando — is an easy sell, but not necessarily.
“We’re in Central Florida, so a lot of doctors aren’t looking toward us. We need to go out and look for them,” said Carrie-Ann Lukas-Brady, the hospital’s human resource manager.
“The cost of living is very affordable in Winter Haven,” she said. “We’ve got the gulf an hour away, we’ve got the Atlantic an hour away, we’ve got lakes. We have everything in our community and we want to showcase that, but, even with technicians, there’s a shortage everywhere in our industry.”
That view is echoed by Today’s Veterinary Business columnist Mark Cushing, who on Page 42 explains that industry insiders in 2014 warned of an overabundance of veterinarians. The forecast was wrong.
In 2019, Cushing reports, “virtually every veterinary practice … cannot find any vets or vet techs. … General practices, specialty hospitals, emergency clinics — you name it and the problem is the same.”
On Page 62, Dr. Cindy Trice, the founder of Relief Rover, offers at least a stop-gap solution: fill-in staffing.
“Some veterinarians work relief as a career choice,” she writes. “For others, relief work is a means to test the cultures of various practices to find one that fits their style and career aspirations.”
What do you think? How dire is the staffing crisis? What can or should be done about it? Write to me at [email protected].
Ken Niedziela, editor