Pandemic’s ‘boom for veterinarians’ leads to amplified stressors – Duluth News Tribune

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Michael Hargrove, owner and veterinarian of North Shore Vet Hospital, sent his clients a long email over the summer letting them know about the various stressors the industry is facing, including increasing demand, the many struggle to cope with what they are doing to adapt.

“One workout after another has been the best year ever in 2020,” said Hargrove, who also provides financial advice to veterinarians across the country. “It was a boom for veterinarians. There’s no question that veterinarians across the country are insanely busy, but it creates a lot of problems. It’s almost too busy. “

In addition, with the closure of the Duluth Business School in 2018, the pool of applicants for certified veterinary technicians in the Twin Ports area has dried up. Hospital in Duluth is no longer able to staff its facility seven days a week.

When the News Tribune contacted BluePearl, a media specialist responded with a statement that the company “will not comment on the matter at this time”.

It is unclear what exactly drove the rise in the number of people seeking veterinary care and whether the tale of the pandemic pet ownership boom is correct. Shelters are the most common way people acquire new pets, and the number of pets adopted from U.S. animal shelters in 2020 was the lowest in five years, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Many veterinarians, like Hargrove, suspect that all the time people spent at home watching their pets played a huge role, as did a backlog in care that was delayed in the early stages of the pandemic.

“So many people work from home when they are not used to it, and now they see when their dog coughs, their cat vomits, limps, it scratches. Maybe they didn’t notice before because they were gone, ”he said. “They are more connected to their pets.”

North Shore Veterinary Hospital owner Michael Hargrove speaks to visitors on Tuesday, August 24, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Minimizing the stress on the ER

As more people and fewer employees provide them, Hargrove and his team at North Shore Vet Hospital are encouraging customers to help them minimize the stress in the emergency hospital.

“We’re really trying to help the emergency room because that helps us too. We want people to really try to avoid the emergency room, except for the most serious things, ”said Hargrove. “The problem is, if you use the emergency room for the things that are not serious, then you can’t use the emergency room when you have the serious business.”

BluePearl is no longer open Tuesday evening through early Wednesday morning when the regular exercises are open. To fill that void, North Shore Vet Hospital is now open Tuesday nights, but only to existing customers who can use an answering machine called the Guardian Vets, which is manned by doctors and technicians who are helping people determine if their concerns are serious enough are to call someone a.

Duluth’s Waters Edge Animal Hospital and Urgent Care provides urgent care Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The hospital, as well as several other veterinary clinics and hospitals in Northland, did not respond to the News Tribune’s request for an interview

Hargrove also introduced customers to an app called Petriage to use before taking their pet to BluePearl to assess whether an animal’s symptoms are an emergency.

Addressing the lack of veterinary techniques

It’s all part of a thoughtful effort to take care of both patients and those in the veterinary medicine who are more prone to job turnover compared to other healthcare professions.


Veterinarian Brittany Simcock has one of six pups brought to North Shore Veterinary Hospital for a check-up on Tuesday, August 24, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Veterinary technicians, who have some of the highest turnover rates, have an average career length of about five years, with some of the biggest issues they cite being low wages averaging $ 14-16, burnout, and underutilization of skills, according to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America.

Minnesota is one of nine states in the country that do not regulate the profession of veterinary technician, which means that anyone can be a veterinary technician, but only those who complete training are considered “certified.”

People like Kim Horne of the Minnesota Association of Veterinary Technicians are pushing for legislation that would change this. Horne, a certified veterinary technician, has been campaigning for technician certification since 2006. Now she finally has the feeling that the idea is working.

“The goal of the legislation is to try to reflect a bit more of the human health system, where there are different levels of nurses and assistants,” said Horne. “Often people leave their jobs and go to nursing. There are jobs that are better paid. “

Minnesota has four schools with accredited veterinary technician programs, with Vermillion Community College at Ely being the only program north of the Twin Cities. The program’s coordinator, Peter Hughes, said some of his students graduate and simply get better deals in other fields and believes the profession is regulated.

“At many veterinary offices in Minnesota, someone comes off the street. They say, “This person is hardworking. They look bright. I’ll train them on the job to do what they need to do, ‘”said Hughes, who was a practicing vet for 25 years. “You become competent quickly and do a good job. On the other hand, that’s not what your nurse is going through. If you don’t have to have an education for the job, there aren’t that many incentives to go to school for it. “

Proponents of the move also believe that it would lead to less turnover because wages would improve and a technician’s skills would be taken more seriously and therefore better used, resulting in greater job satisfaction.


Veterinary assistant Molly Meyhoefer examines four of a litter of six 2½ week old pups that were brought to the North Shore Veterinary Hospital for examination on Tuesday, August 24th, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

The Minnesota House of Representatives has drafted a bill and a state senator has declared its readiness to draft one in the Senate, Horne said. Legislation introducing technicians into the Veterinary Practice Act was introduced at the 2021 session, with hearings and testimony expected at the 2022 session.

Maria Nellessen, certified technician with the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association, stressed that the legislation would also ensure a higher standard of care for the public, especially since non-certified veterinary technicians working in a clinic do not require further training.

“It’s a medical profession. There’s always something new,” said Nellessen. “There are so many changes. People have to keep track of things.”

Nobody would lose their job under the proposed law, Horne said, adding that uncertified technicians would still be able to do their jobs but would only need to identify themselves as assistants.

Northwood Technical College in Wisconsin, formerly called WITC, has an accredited program on its New Richmond campus and has received requests from local practitioners to expand its program to the Superior Campus.

“(D) this is a possibility in the future and something that we are investigating,” said the university’s spokeswoman, Jena Vogtmann, in a statement. “Part of the goal was to get the program accredited before we consider expanding it to other campuses.”

The program started in autumn 2019 and was accredited in February. This fall, 87 students are enrolled in the program, which Vogtman said had a long waiting list of applicants.

“We have a lot of needs up here,” said Hargrove. “They’d all be hired.”

Until the situation changes, Hargrove strongly encouraged current and future pet owners to plan routine veterinary visits well in advance.

This story was updated on October 7th at 9:45 am to show that Maria Nellessen works for the Minnesota Veterinary Association and to indicate that they are non-certified veterinary technicians with no obligation to continue their education.