Veterinary medicine finds itself in the midst of a tight labor market for highly sought-after workers for whom the work-life balance is of the utmost importance.
These and other nuggets about the US veterinary market were unveiled by Charlotte Hansen, AVMA Associate Director for Statistical Analysis, during the AVMA Veterinary Business and Economic Forum, held virtually October 14-16.
Although most male and female veterinarians currently work in pet practices, the AVMA Veterinary Census and other sources show the field attracts slightly more women (70%) than men (61%). The continued focus of veterinary services on a single sector is understandable, Hansen said, but it ultimately deprives the country of the necessary animal care.
“Our profession is struggling to get the necessary vets into rural America,” she said, “and the increasing share of pet medicine is making it difficult for these other areas to keep vets. The hunt for higher salaries to tackle debt is one reason. It is important to diversify and specialize in other areas. However, it is difficult to compete on wages and quality of life.
“What we will most likely see is government intervening when there is no role in providing veterinary services that the public needs, as we are seeing with the veterinary loan repayment program.”
Hansen said the U.S. vet got a score of 0.26 on the Simpsons Diversity Index. The index measures the number of races and ethnic groups represented and their distribution across the occupation. As Hansen explained, a score of 0 on the index means a complete lack of diversity, while a score of 1 means infinite diversity. For comparison: MD residents (0.61), doctors (0.53), pharmacists (0.51) and dentists (0.47) performed better than veterinary medicine.
The US population has a value of 0.60. As the veterinary profession advances towards a higher number on the Diversity Index, Hansen said, the profession cannot be overlooked in creating an environment that is inclusive, equitable and safe for all.
According to the AVMA census, unemployment in the veterinary sector rose to 1.8% in 2021, compared to 0.7% in 2020. This means that 1.8% of veterinarians are employed or enrolled in an internship or specialist training or a Look for work outside of veterinary medicine.
This does not include those who sit outside the workforce. In fact, 63% of these unemployed vets said they were not looking for employment or enrollment. About 46% of the unemployed looking for employment or enrollment are currently not working in another job. So we have workers who are there but just don’t work, ”said Hansen.
With regard to the vacancies in the AVMA Veterinary Career Center and other job sites, according to Hansen, 70% come from company or group practices and 30% from independent practices. Accordingly, around 35% of veterinary assistants are employed in company practices, while the rest work independently in individual or group practices.
Professionally, the median income for veterinarians in 2021 was about $ 120,000. The median income was highest in the domesticated and exclusive practice and in industrial and trade organizations.
Hansen also addressed the growing discontent among veterinarians and urged leadership to step in and address the problem. For example, 44% of veterinarians considered leaving the veterinary profession, up from 38% last year. In addition, 39% of vets said they had considered leaving the vet profession in the past five years; 23% said they had considered leaving in the last year, and around a quarter were serious.
“We measure seriousness here on a scale from one to a hundred and ask: ‘How serious are you?’ We mark responses over 50 as serious, that is 25% of the veterinarians, ”said Hansen.
About 26% of vets in 2021 said they wanted to work fewer hours, citing reasons like better work-life balance and mental health issues like stress, anxiety and burnout, followed by feelings of overwork and problems with childcare and births.
The AVMA Veterinary Census also shows that 40% of practice owners plan to sell their practice within five years, with retirement being the most cited (70%). About 36% of employees expressed an interest in buying or becoming a partner in a practice. Reasons for the low interest in practice ownership are educational debts and risks, but also work-life balance and low interest in practice management.
“The consolidation of veterinary medicine is taking place, for better and for worse,” said Hansen. “If we think about sustainability, leave veterinary practices to the next generation, if fewer vets are interested, if owners retire and employees don’t buy, the practice will go to a consolidator,” said Hansen. “When you are someone who believes in the need for independent practice, start teaching our people the importance of leadership and management.”