How Bad Is the National Vet Shortage — And What Can You Do About It?

A look inside the current vet shortage and how to address it in your clinic

Is your clinic struggling to recruit and retain talented veterinarians?

If so, you’re not alone.

According to Sarah Zhang, a writer for The Atlantic, “Hospitals, clinics, and vet offices around the U.S. in the past year have been turning animals away because they are short-staffed. This crisis has hit all levels of the system, from general practice to specialists.”

This blog will take an in-depth look at the current vet shortage and how to address it. 

Book a demo to learn how Flow by Otto can help you address the current vet shortage in the U.S

A look at the vet shortage

The vet shortage in the U.S. has likely already started affecting your clinic, yet you may be unaware of how substantial this shortage is. 

“With pet ownership steadily on the rise, a 33% increase in pet healthcare service spending is expected over the next 10 years,” according to Mars Veterinary Health

This means there will be a need for an additional 41,000 veterinarians by 2030. That is a massive increase from the current number of active vets in the field. If you include the expected veterinarian graduates over the next 10 years, the industry would still face a 15,000-person vet shortage.

This shortage will only increase as the years go on because people will continue to own animals that require quality care. Mars Veterinary Health also states, “It would take more than 30 years of graduates to meet the 10-year industry need for credentialed veterinary technicians.” 

In terms of employment, the need for veterinarians and vet techs grows substantially faster than any other profession. The U.S. Bureau of Labor projects the employment of veterinarians will grow 19% from 2021 to 2031. On average, there are about 4,800 job openings in the vet field a year. 

There are ways to address this shortage in your clinic, so your staff and clients feel secure and well taken care of at your business.

How to address the vet shortage at your clinic

Addressing the vet shortage in your clinic is crucial for all your staff members to feel confident and appreciated and to ensure your clients are getting the best care possible. 

Here are a few tips and strategies you can use to mitigate the effects the shortage has on your practice:

1. Recruiting vets

Recruiting vets is a critical factor in running and maintaining a successful clinic. The areas to focus on for impactful and long-term recruiting are outlined below. 

Focus on your clinic’s culture
Evaluate your clinic’s culture to determine how you can make it more enticing to talented veterinarians. Is the work environment enjoyable? Is there a solid work-life balance? Do you offer resources to help combat burnout and compassion fatigue? If your answer to any of these questions is no, vets will likely seek employment opportunities at other clinics. 

Focus on employee needs
Especially in this day and age, employees care heavily about their needs being met. You must have competitive benefits, supportive team members, continuing education opportunities, and work flexibility. These are the main things candidates look for when applying for a job. 

Prioritize transparency
Another important aspect of recruiting is providing transparency from the very beginning. Candidates want realistic expectations and honesty during the hiring process. They want to know what the interview process will look like, what their compensation will be, and what the expectations will be once they start the position — and they want to know this information from the very first conversation.

2. Retaining Vets

Retaining vets is an equally — if not more — important aspect of addressing the veterinary shortage. 

Some areas to focus on for retaining vets and vet techs are outlined below.

Show care
Current employees expect the same care and attention that new hires receive. Make sure you aren’t luring in new talent with significant pay increases, while leaving your current vets at a stagnant rate that has them eyeing other opportunities. And make any perks that you use to entice new hires available to existing vets and staff, as well.

Communicate effectively
Keeping an open line of communication with current vets and vet techs will make them feel comfortable and informed about their positions at the clinic. Keep them informed of challenges the clinic is facing, potential new policy changes, strategy shifts, and more. Even better, give them a voice in the decision-making process. Vets who feel like their voice is heard and valued will be much less likely to seek new opportunities.

Offer growth opportunities
Veterinarians are often high-achievers with a growth mindset. Consider setting up a continuing education budget vets and vet techs can use to keep their skills up to date. Not only will this inspire loyalty, it will ensure they’re offering the cutting-edge, quality care your clients deserve.

Emphasize work-life balance
Current employees value a fair work-life balance and always want to be respected regarding their time and hard work. Having transparency about what is doable and the boundaries they have set is important for them to succeed at their job long term. 

3. Lean on vet techs

“The success of our veterinary practices relies on the performance of the whole veterinary care team. An important – and often underused – role is a veterinary technician. Having credentialed veterinary technicians on our teams with the skills we need is a critical part of building an efficient practice; so is using those skills efficiently,” says the AVMA.

Utilizing the support of the vet technicians in your practice for more than just mundane tasks would help boost your clinic’s efficiency and decrease stress. Vet techs can provide the necessary support veterinarians need to effectively use their time each day. 

According to Kristina Guldbrand, VCT, and writer for dvm360, “Many clinics are still using [vet techs] for laundry, cleaning, and restraining animals for exams. In addition to increased job satisfaction, hiring additional staff to do nontechnical work comes at a lower hourly rate, which increases your bottom line.”

Not only will leveraging vet techs to their full capabilities provide additional support for veterinarians, it will also make the technicians themselves feel more valued and appreciated, increasing the likelihood that they stay at your clinic long term. 

4. Increase your clinic’s capacity

Increasing your clinic’s capacity is another key way to address the veterinary shortage. If your clinic is forced to get by with fewer veterinarians on staff, you have to find ways to increase the number of clients you can treat per veterinarian (without overworking them, of course). 

Integrating technology is an effective way to increase your clinic’s capacity. It helps free up time that vets and techs use throughout their days filing paperwork, taking payments, answering repetitive questions, and scheduling appointments. 

Televet Flow is a program designed to help eliminate some of the stress in a clinic and increase the care that vets and vet techs can provide to current clients. 

Below are the ways Flow can help your clinic today.

  • Streamline client communications
  • Streamline the check-in process
  • Reduce no-shows and cancellations

Streamline client communication
By integrating technology, like Otto Flow, into your clinic, you can make client communication easier and more efficient by reducing time spent on the phone and allowing clients to do more through your website. 

For example, Camden Veterinary Clinic uses Flow’s website widget to streamline appointment scheduling.  

“Once they visit our website, they can select whether they’re a returning client seeking an appointment, a new client seeking an appointment, or they need something else,” said Yarleen Rodriguez, Practice Manager at the clinic. “If they schedule an appointment, they’ll receive a date and time and confirm their availability. If they click to learn about grooming or boarding, they’ll automatically receive some details on what that looks like.” 

Streamline the check-in process
On top of using technology to schedule appointments and look at records, clinics should start using technology to assist or take over the check-in and check-out process. 

Clinical staff lose much of their daily productivity by manually repeating intake tasks. To boost appointment efficiency, Flow can help you automate your clinic’s check-in process with custom forms, text reminders, and status updates.

Another mundane task that slows down the appointment process is filling out forms. Allowing clients the opportunity to view and fill out these forms digitally ahead of time will only help to increase clinic efficiency.  

Flow empowers you to easily send and receive veterinary patient intake, drop-off, exam, and custom forms via text or email and seamlessly sync the information directly with your practice management software.

Reduce no-shows and cancellations
No-shows or late appointment cancellations are an issue every appointment-based business runs into. These missed appointments are incredibly frustrating for veterinary clinics — as the time they set aside on their schedule could have been used to care for a different patient.

In a previous blog, we outlined three simple (but effective) strategies you can use to minimize cancellations and no-shows at your clinic.

  1. Collect deposits from first-time patients 
  2. Create an appointment reminder and confirmation system 
  3. Communicate the importance of care 

Book a demo to learn how Flow by Otto can help you address the current vet shortage in the U.S.