Eagle Post: too many vets?

Thomas Donnelly, BVSc DipVP DipACLAM reports from the US.

You may have seen the US Veterinary Workforce Study published by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently, or read the reports in Veterinary Record (May 2013, Vol 172, Issue 18) that suggest the supply of veterinarians in the USA may be exceeding demand for their services. Although specific to the US, as concerns are also being expressed about a likely oversupply of vets in Australia, the findings are of great interest.

The findings support a February 24 story in the New York Times entitled “High debt and falling demand trap new vets.” The story described a 30-year old vet, Hayley Schafer working in Gilbert, Arizona with $312,000 owing in student loans and depicts a profession bogged down by exorbitant educational costs, a looming oversupply of practitioners and the public’s declining demand for pet health care. Comments on Veterinary Information Network (VIN) reached fever pitch garnering more than 400 posts. Specifically, the results suggest that approximately 12.5 per cent of veterinary services in the US went unused in 2012 and that demand for veterinary services was sufficient to employ only 78,950 of the 90,200 vets currently working in clinical and non-clinical settings. The AVMA further suggested that excess capacity is likely to persist for the near future, even if US veterinary colleges were to limit expansion in enrolment. The study predicts the excess capacity will range from 11-14 per cent annually until 2025. Overcapacity is greatest in equine practice (23 per cent), followed by small animal (18 per cent), food animal (15 per cent) and mixed practice (13 per cent).

Many US veterinarians are already angry with the AVMA for recently accrediting Ross University in the Caribbean, which graduates over 300 veterinarians per year, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. At present, there are 28 AVMA accredited schools in the US and 11 in other countries (including three in Australia and one in New Zealand). Another two new veterinary schools – Midwestern University in Arizona and Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee – remain on track to open in 2014. Continue reading Eagle Post: too many vets?