The last two years have been a challenge for the veterinary industry, everyone is “dog tired”! Clinic staff put in long hours and yet we still field cursing, yelling, hang-ups, and angry complaints from animal owners who are upset that the next available appointment is weeks away or that their phone call was not returned in the timeframe they thought it should be. Then they turn to social media to disparage us and draw random comments from others based on their side of the story only. Please know, that there are two sides to every story why clinics are not able to schedule an appointment or return that call. The clinic side of the story might be they are not an active client, maybe they have an old balance that was never paid, or maybe they are calling about medication prescribed by another veterinarian that we are unable to give dosing instructions for, or maybe it was their own personal medication they are wanting to use and asking the vet for the dose. Veterinary clinics everywhere are overwhelmed. Tensions run high and the rudeness and disrespect are taking their toll. We do our best to continue being polite and understanding and do not enjoy upsetting someone or turning people away. Auburn Animal Clinic never closed during the COVID chaos. We worked curbside for a short time but quickly returned to some sort of normalcy.
A better understanding of the challenges facing the veterinary industry and the efforts put in by veterinarians and their staff may help pet parents realize that we are in this together and are in this profession for the love of our animals. It certainly isn’t for the money. Here are some things to think about the next time you pick up the phone to call the vet.
Many households have adopted pets over the last two years-actually to the tune of over 20 million pets! Over 70% of households now have a new four-legged family member. Pet parents have become more engaged and more pets mean more attention to veterinary care. Pet parents are now working remotely and oftentimes project their fears and anxiety on the animals around them or they are simply more aware of their pet’s health and behavior, now noticing problems they may have previously not noticed or even overlooked. Extra outdoor time has led to more cases of parvovirus and pet emergencies.
In addition to small animals, the last two years have also presented challenges for veterinarians and the many families who decided that now was the time to fulfill their dream and move to the country…..get a cow, a goat, a pig, or a horse with no knowledge about the animal they purchased or how to keep it healthy. Calling for “a quick question” on your cute new hobby when you are not a client is taking time away from those who are on the schedule that day. Education through the resources you purchased the animal from or groups related to your hobby is encouraged. Schedule an exam appointment, and pay for the doctor’s time and expertise. It is important to establish a relationship with your vet since the large animal veterinarians have become few and far between or plan on going straight to KSU.
Consider this—the typical physician relies on PAs, nurses, and technicians to help with their caseload, chart notes, etc. while veterinarians have one vet tech to assist them on the best of days, then the doctor has to do their notes to your pet’s chart after the appointment.
The average veterinary clinic manages approximately 13,000 visits annually. Auburn Animal Clinic managed over 18,000 patient visits in 2021! Veterinary clinics must follow FDA rules/laws along with many hours of continuing education to maintain their licenses and keep the door open for you. When we say you need an exam to purchase a flea/tick medication it is because it is the law, not to, “just get more money out of you”.
Simply put, the veterinary profession is not keeping pace with demand. There are only five vet schools in the U.S. and class size has not expanded. One study estimates that the U.S. is facing a shortage of up to 5,000 veterinarians! Retirements, turnover, and suicides among vets and vet technicians are adding to the problem. More than 35% of vet nurses have quit the industry in the last five years and the average tenure for these team members is only seven years! Veterinary school debt has grown 4.5 times faster than the income for their new graduates and average compensation for vet technicians can be less than the proposed minimum wage. Sadly, there is little chance in the near term to graduate more veterinarians.
There are things you can do as an animal owner to help:
- Plan ahead for routine check-ups and medication refills to avoid last-minute panic and frustration. Veterinary clinics face the same supply chain availability issues as everyone else in the country so do not wait until the last minute!
- If you have large animals—DEFINITELY PLAN AHEAD! Working large animals typically requires more time whether we are working them at the clinic or at your farm. Drive time factors in when getting large animals scheduled at the farm, we cannot typically just work the appointment in.
- Be prepared to pay your bill at the time of the service. Don’t ask us to take payments-use a credit card, CareCredit, or a friend.
- Take a breath, calm down and give us time to get back to you. Many veterinary clinics request 24-48 hours to respond to your calls and emails and PetDesk requests. At this point, Auburn Animal Clinic has not had to do that.
- Having a strong relationship with your veterinarian may help in times of an emergency but also have a backup plan. KSU Veterinary Hospital may be able to assist in times of an emergency.