Growing Issues in Veterinary Medicine

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Anyone with involvement in the industry can recognize there are some growing issues in veterinary medicine. From a lack of diversity to burnout, the career path is not without its flaws. Our current and future vets should familiarize themselves with the issues and find some appropriate solutions.

Lack of Diversity

Veterinary medicine is often regarded as one of the whitest professions in the United States. Even as minority populations rise, those numbers have not been reflected in animal medicine. The profession needs to reach out to more communities. Veterinarians need to mentor and coach people of color to show the next generation that a veterinarian can look like anyone.

Not Enough Rural Support

Over the past half-century, veterinary medicine has gone from primarily caring for agrarian farm animals to being more focused on companion animals. At the same time, veterinary schools have seen fewer and fewer applicants from the heartland, and many of the rural students eventually practice in urban areas.

Unfortunately, rural areas are not getting the support they need. Horses and cows sometimes also need to be analyzed with veterinary ultrasound equipment. When the field decreases its presence in rural life, it decreases its care for those animals—possibly thousands of them. Veterinary medicine needs to create more incentives to get rural students to return to their communities.

Care Is Inaccessible

Veterinary medicine, despite what every vet wishes, has never been 100 percent accessible. Their services can be costly, and vets are not always well known by the communities they serve. But the 2018 report “Access to Veterinary Care: Barriers, Current Practices and Public Policy” reveals just how many gaps there are in veterinary care.

According to the report:

  • An estimated 29 million dogs and cats live in homes that receive help through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
  • The biggest barrier to veterinary care is the cost.
  • People are also barred from receiving care because they do not know care is needed, they do not know where to get help, have no transportation, or have a physical disability.

It is clear that veterinarians need to look into alternative, less-expensive payment options, and devise services that bring them closer to their patients. These problems are not going away, and vets will need to get creative if they want them solved.

Burnout and Mental Health

Burnout and mental health problems are on the rise in human and veterinary medicine. The long hours, the time spent on your feet, dealing with difficult pet owners, not to mention the frequent animal deaths: it can be easy to see why burnout is among the growing issues in veterinary medicine. Veterinarians and their staff must be able to take care of themselves. Frequent breaks, realistic hours, and a culture of emotional support can go a long way.

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