Veterinary medicine needs to critically assess workforce needs, watchdogs say - DVM
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Veterinary medicine needs to critically assess workforce needs, watchdogs say


"Veterinary school is all taught by specialists, and most of the cases they see in clinicals are advanced cases. They're not practicing enough routine medicine," Boss says.

"Students are graduating feeling unprepared for general practice," Boss comments. So they take low-paying internships where they are "working like dogs and they're not learning anything."

Wilson says internships cost new DVMs between $50,000 and $60,000 for this added year of education, taking into account lost wages, interest accumulated on their mean $134,000 of student debt during the year and additional money some need to borrow to survive that year.

Most internships pay about $28,500 per year compared to the $68,000 mean starting salary for a new graduate associate veterinarian in 2010. There are about 1,000 internship openings each year compared with about 250 residencies, Wilson adds.

"That means that many of these people will not find residencies. In fact, it is not uncommon to find them doing two internships these days and still not getting into a residency," he explains.

While students who do internships in order to pursue a specialty may benefit despite the dollar loss, Pion says it's a shame some are interning in order to boost their confidence before practicing veterinary medicine professionally.

"There's not enough training in the bread and butter," Boss explains. Likewise, veteran practitioners aren't doing a good enough job of helping pet owners understand the value of veterinary medicine, she says. If practitioners did a better job of making the most out of every client—charging more appropriate fees and keeping up on maintenance care—they would bring in more revenue and therefore have more resources to hire associates.

Still, a shortage of job postings in some sectors of the profession does not mean veterinarians are saturating the market, cautions Pappaioanou.

"There's a lot of opinions out there right now," she says, adding veterinary job seekers can find a lot of opportunities outside standard practice in fields like research and public health, but they have to be creative. Not all positions will advertise for a veterinarian, but it is a job where a DVM would excel.

But practice owners who don't have the means to expand their own practices see things differently, she says.

"Some companion-animal folks are not looking at the bigger picture," she says. "We hear anecdotes of small-animal practitioners who are dissuading young people from pursuing veterinary medicine as a career. This is the antithesis of what we want."

But Wilson says that increasing enrollment among veterinary colleges to generate money to cover decreasing funding for financially taxed schools and to answer the profession's call for more veterinarians will only make matters worse. Off-shore and European veterinary colleges have been adding hundreds of more slots at their programs, and these are not counted in the American Veterinary Medical Association's or AAVMC's survey data. He estimates that enrollment increases in the past four years at U.S.-accredited veterinary colleges will produce almost 300 more students per year once all the students in the bigger classes matriculate.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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