‘75 Million Pets in USA Risk Losing Access to Care’: Your Weekly Veterinary News Crunch 17 September 2020
The weekly rundown of veterinary news for the time-poor vet, presented by VetX International
75 Million Pets in USA Risk Losing Access to Care
A recent study by Banfield Pet Hospital has found that by 2030, 75 million pets in the USA are at risk of not having any access to veterinary care. The key factor is a critical shortage of veterinary professionals. This highlights the need to strengthen the pipeline – and diversity – of future vets.
“The veterinary profession is not only essential – we are in increasingly high demand. Today’s environment has only strengthened the human animal bond as pets provide unconditional love through these unpredictable times,” said Brian Garish, president of Banfield Pet Hospital. “Pets are here for us, and as veterinary professionals, we must be here for them.”
Part of the study consisted of a survey of high school and college students, examining why cohorts lack diversity. Key findings include 57% of all students surveyed had once considered becoming a veterinarian, and 32% changed their mind before graduating college. When looking at Black students in this population, over 50% said they were persuaded by someone else—a family member, friend, mentor or school counselor—to choose a different career.
Purdue University Uses Role Models to Promote Diversity
The Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine’s new initiative ‘VetaHumanz’, aims to help diversify the veterinary workforce primarily through the use of role models.
According to Purdue University, 90% of American veterinarians are white, a figure that can be diversified by the promotion of a wide range of role models to children of school age.
“We have an amazing team of superheroes, including teachers, community leaders, artists, graphic designers, communications experts, evaluators, students, veterinarians and experts in diversity, equity and inclusion who are all thrilled to take our role modeling programs to the next level and inspire future veterinary professionals,” said Dr. Sandra San Miguel, founder of the League of VetaHumanz and associate dean for engagement in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “We can all make the world a better place if we work together and use our powers for good.”
Long Hours Take their Toll on Public Health Veterinarians in the US
Public health veterinarians in the US have already completed ‘at least a year’s worth of regular working hours’ since January in order to protect people from Covid-19.
Much work is going into capturing and analysing data to find the people vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19; finding patterns among clinical outcomes; and using those results to shape policy.
However, Dr. Catherine Brown worries that findings aren’t filtering through and being applied: “It’s fine for the Department of Public Health—at the state level—to collect information,” she said. “But if we’re not turning that around and making actionable items out of it, and then helping people understand what those action items are that they should be involved in, then what’s the point?”
What’s more, the work public health veterinarians are doing at the moment largely goes unnoticed. Dr. Lindenmayer said signs in her town thank first responders and essential workers but not public health workers. She said the public, historically, knows little about public health work and why it should be funded. “The real dilemma with public health is that we don’t have a constituency,” she said. “When public health succeeds, that means that nothing happens.”
A Call to Reassess ‘Kerbside Vetting’ in UK
New concerns over the mental health implications of ‘kerbside vetting’ in the UK have been raised by the BVA. Despite relative easing of restrictions, allowing more clients to visit clinics, many practices are still not allowing clients to enter the building. This means thousands of vets and vet nurses are still having to interact with clients in car parks and on roadsides, leading to an increase in complaints and rising stress levels for clinicians.
BVA president Daniella Dos Santos said, “What I am hearing loud and clear from vets and nurses – particularly in small animal practice – is that the main causes of stress are lack of time, and increased client pressure and complaints. The difficult message with this is that a lot of it relates to not allowing clients into the practice building.”
She added, “Vets are reporting that clients are struggling to understand why they are being kept outside of the practice when they are allowed into cafes, restaurants and shops, and for longer than the average consult. This is leading to increasing client frustration and complaints, which land on teams that are exhausted, therefore compounding the impact of the whole pandemic on everyone’s mental health.”
Ms Dos Santos has urged practices to reconsider their current ways of working, because continuing ‘kerbside vetting’ is not sustainable: “…my biggest fear for our profession now is not the virus itself, but the mental health impact it is having on us all. As we look to the future, we must acknowledge the way we are currently working is taking its toll and is not something we can sustain for another six months.”
Veterinarians Feel Pushed Aside in New Zealand
Border restrictions in New Zealand (as part of Covid-19 measures) have left veterinarians with a sour taste in their mouths. Whilst other sectors of the economy such as film-making and building maintenance have been granted full exemption from border restrictions, vets have not. New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) chief executive Kevin Bryant says this is “surprising given veterinarians’ essential worker status during the lockdown.”
He continued, “We’re led to the conclusion that veterinarians are not viewed as important as other parts of the economy…As an example, if animal welfare, food safety and biosecurity are compromised because there are insufficient vets to support the primary sector, the economic impact on New Zealand would be catastrophic.”
NZVA chief veterinary officer Dr Helen Beattie said the repercussions of these shortages were far-reaching and, in many cases, have long-term consequences including poor veterinary mental health and wellbeing, burn-out and veterinarians leaving the profession.
“We are concerned that poor farmer health and wellbeing will result when farmers are unable to get the support for their animals they need, and there will be compromised animal welfare, food safety and biosecurity surveillance, as well as a negative impact on production.”
“We are calling on the Government to take steps to alleviate this situation by elevating veterinarians to critical worker status and streamlining and speeding up the application and approval process.”
Some Vets in the US Have Started Charging Upfront
In response to an increasing number of no-shows, some vet clinics in the US have started charging clients upfront. According to Dr Sarah Thronton of Schuylkill Veterinary Hospital in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, paying $50 upfront when booking a visit has “solved the no-show problem and we still have a full book.”
Dr. Paul Gustafson, a veterinarian at Warwick Animal Hospital in Newport News, Virginia, said “Surprisingly, clients don’t seem to mind [paying a fee in advance], and we’re getting twice as many new clients per month as we were before the virus hit.”
This creative response to doing business comes during a period where time-consuming cleaning and social distancing protocols mean practices can no longer see as many clients as they used to. In some cases, practices also have been short-staffed due to recent layoffs, employees burning out and quitting, or colleagues contracting the disease. Veterinarians simply can’t afford no-shows.
New Scholarship for BAME Veterinary Students in UK
A new scholarship has been set up by IVC Evidensia for the next intake of undergraduate veterinary students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME).
Amanda Boag, group referral director, is leading activity to launch the scholarship and said she will be working with universities and other partners to raise awareness of the available funding. She hopes the scholarship will “pave the way for more positive changes in the industry we work in and love, improving it for future generations.”
Group chief executive Steve Clarke said: “As a gay person who grew up in the 1970s and 80s, I fully understand prejudice and the impact it can have – especially in the workplace…We are committed to promoting equality in every aspect of our working lives, regardless of colour, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religion.”
He continued, “The BAME scholarship scheme is part of this initiative. But it’s not just about giving money – it’s about action, too. That’s why we also recognise the need to build a support network for these undergraduates to thrive and flourish, and we want our BAME colleagues to be fully involved in the planning of that support.”
Free Veterinary Clinic Opens in Ooty, India
A veterinary clinic has been established by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (SPCA). A local animal lover, Karthik Davey, donated close to Rs 7 lakh to help renovate the dilapidated building. “My contribution to the building is in memory of my loved hounds Shaka and Jabu” said Mr Davey.
The SPCA has been active in the district for more than a decade. Stray animals are rescued and treated for free at the clinic until their owners claim them.
“The free clinic will initially function three days a week,” SPCA nodal officer Nagina Reddy said.
SPCA is drafting modalities to run the free clinic, which will also function as a study centre for students and new veterinarians. Reddy continued, “We need to educate the younger generation about animal welfare. We are chalking out a draft on how the clinic can be taken forward as a study centre, also keeping in mind its sustainability.”
Spending at Least 120 Minutes a Week in Nature is Associated with Good Health and Wellbeing
A study has shown that, compared to zero hours of contact with nature for one week, the likelihood of reporting good health or high well-being became significantly greater with contact equal to or more than 120 minutes (in one week).
Positive associations peaked between 200–300 minutes per week with no further gain. The pattern was consistent across key groups including older adults and those with long-term health issues.
The good news is, it did not seem to matter how the 120 minutes in nature was achieved, whether this be one long bout or several short walks per week. In sum, the message is to get out there and enjoy nature, even after a busy day at work! It can have an impactful and long lasting effect on your mental wellbeing and health.
The full study overview can be accessed here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3#Sec2