An AVMA census of veterinarians raises concerns that demographic factors could exacerbate occupational shortages and reduce practice ownership.
The AVMA Veterinary Economics Division conducted an analysis of the AVMA membership database which identified 113,394 veterinarians living in the United States in 2018, of which 72.4% were AVMA members and 27.6% were not. The results of the analysis appear in this issue of JAVMA.
Millennials born between 1981 and 1996 now represent 39% of veterinarians. Baby boomers make up 33% and members of Generation X 25%. 61.7% of veterinarians are women, which is a long-term gender shift.
Most veterinarians aged 75 or younger (83.9%) work in private clinical practices. The AVMA analysis found that among veterinarians who identified as practice owners or employees, 42% were owners in 2018, compared with 47% in 2008. Younger vets and female veterinarians were less likely to be practice owners.
The analysis showed a considerable increase in the number of veterinarians in emergency and intensive care medicine as well as in referral or specialist practices between 2008 and 18.
According to the census report, “the median age at graduation has increased since 1975, raising concerns that career length for veterinarians is decreasing, potentially exacerbating the shortage of veterinarians.” According to the report, “a large number of board-certified veterinarians are on the verge of retirement over the next 15 years, unless the number of younger veterinarians pursuing the board increases significantly, which may increase the shortage of board-certified veterinarians. ” Certification. “
The big picture
The motivation for the demographic analysis was to provide information that will help policy makers improve their workforce planning and address issues such as veterinarian shortages and high educational debt among veterinarians, said Dr. Frederic B. Ouedraogo, lead author of the report and assistant economic director in the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division. Other professions are doing similar analysis, such as a 2016 census that found 953,695 actively licensed doctors in the United States.
In 2018, the US population of veterinarians 65 years of age or under was 102,000, up 30% from 2007. More than 3,000 veterinarians graduated from the 30 US veterinary colleges in 2018, and approximately 750 US residents graduated from each foreign veterinary college Year.
“Most states had a ratio of 1,000 to 1,500 housing units per vet,” according to the census report. “States with the lowest number of housing units per vet were mostly in the West Central and Mountain regions.”
Of all veterinarians, 21.3% identified themselves as practice owners and 29.3% as employees in 2018.
Dr. Ouedraogo said the profession is seeing a decline in practice ownership, especially among younger veterinarians. He attributed the decline to a combination of market consolidation and educational debt.
“For veterinarians who identified themselves as practice owners or employees, 14.5% of the ≤ 39-year-olds stated that they owned a practice in 2008, but only 9.0% in 2018”, according to the census report. Between the ages of 40 and 49, the percentage decreased from 43.8% to 27.5%.
Among the owners and staff in 2008, approximately 62.1% of male veterinarians and 29.7% of female veterinarians owned, compared to 59.3% of male veterinarians and 29.3% of female veterinarians in 2018. Men did about 2008 half of all veterinarians, which corresponds to a decrease to 38.2% in 2018.
Age at graduation
The average age at the end of the veterinary college in 1975 was 25 years and for unknown reasons rose until about the year 2000 before reaching a plateau at 28 or 29 years. Dr. Ouedraogo is still analyzing retirement age, but shorter career lengths could exacerbate the shortage of veterinarians and complicate the educational debt problem.
When a veterinarian at age 24 or 25 closes a certain amount of student debt for repayment, Dr. Ouedraogo, repaying the debt is easier than it is for a veterinarian who has the same amount to repay at the age of 30.
Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges data suggests a slightly different pattern in the age of veterinary students, said Lisa M. Greenhill, EdD, senior director of institutional research and diversity at AAVMC.
“There was a time when the median age of graduates rose and approached 30, but that was about 20 years ago,” she said. “We have seen a decline from that number with a sustained slow decline over the past decade.”
According to AAVMC data, the mean age of veterinary students in the first year 1975 was 22.4 years, increased to 24.9 years in 1995, and decreased to 23.3 years in 2018.
Specialists, emergency and intensive care
Among veterinarians aged 75 or younger, the number of emergency and intensive care physicians – both specialists and non-specialists – increased by 133.5% from 2008 to 2013 and by 63.3% from 2013 to 18, while the number of referral or specialist practices of all types increased by 98.4% from 2008-13 and 49.1% from 2013-18.
“In business, we usually say that demand creates supply. I think because we are now seeing more people wanting specific care for their pets, we are seeing this increasing pattern for critical care and specialty medicine,” said Dr. Ouedraogo said.
“In 2008, approximately 20% of board-certified veterinarians were between 50 and 54 years old,” the census report said. “In 2018, approximately 24% of board certified veterinarians were ≥ 60 years old and most likely represented the same veterinarians in the 50 to 54 year old cohort in 2008. Compared to 2008, the proportion of veterinarians was in their 30s to 30s Years later, in the mid-1940s, they were certified by the board in 2018. “
Dr. Ouedraogo said the problem the profession might face is that the replacement rate cannot keep up.
“We recently saw articles, or heard from recruitment firms, describing the difficulty of hiring some specialists, suggesting that demand is still growing,” said Dr. Ed Murphey, Associate Director of AVMA’s Education and Research Division and Human Resources Advisor, AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties.
At least anecdotally, said Dr. Murphey, it is difficult for the veterinary colleges to hire some specialists, notoriously radiologists. He said, “This can have a big impact as fewer people are training future professionals in the field.”
The census report and the ABVS data show that emergency and intensive care is the specialty with the largest percentage increase among certified veterinarians. The census report found the number increased 31.7% from 2008 to 2013 and 62.8% from 2013-18, while the ABVS data shows the number increased 163% from 2008 to 18.
Dr. Ouedraogo is working on a study to predict the number of veterinarians it will take to meet demand in the coming years for different categories such as companion animal medicine. He’s almost done with a study of when and why veterinarians are switching from full-time to part-time work.
While there is no data in the AVMA member database, Dr. Ouedraogo all veterinarians in the country.
“It’s not a sample; we have the US population,” he said. “So we can really learn a lot from it, and we’re only the ones who can really pretend we know the entire population of veterinarians in the US.”
Related JAVMA content:
The ripple effects of the megastudy can still be felt (July 15, 2019)
Veterinary association founded to counter the influence of companies (May 1, 2019)
Recruitment Crisis (April 1, 2019)
Efforts are being made to address educational debt (March 15, 2019).
The lack of ER documents becomes critical (March 1, 2019)
Veterinary market remains strong (December 15, 2018)
The corporatization of veterinary medicine (December 1, 2018)
Specialists in shortage of goods (October 15, 2018)