Colorado veterinary professionals push for creation of new position to address staffing shortage

rural veterinarian shortage solutions
Posted at 9:52 PM, Mar 21, 2023

DENVER — A veterinary shortage is impacting Colorado and the United States. A study found that without any solutions, by 2030, the U.S. will have 15,000 fewer veterinarians than it needs, leaving 75 million pets without proper care.

"We have a severe workforce crisis,” said Dr. Apryl Steele, president and CEO of the Dumb Friends League. “There’s long wait times, whether it's routine or emergency. Veterinary hospitals aren't accepting new patients."

Steele says it boils down to many reasons, including a shortage of workers in the veterinary industry and high cost of care. Many people end up taking their pet to places like the Dumb Friends League Veterinary Hospital at CSU Spur, a donor-subsidized clinic that allows pet owners — regardless of income — to get the care their pet needs.

"We are often a last stop for people. They've often been priced out of care,” said Dr. Arik Smith, lead veterinarian at the Dumb Friends League Veterinary Hospital.

Smith says burnout the veterinary field is real.

"Whenever you have staffing shortages, you can only see so many a day,” said Smith.

The Vet Care Coalition is pushing for the creation of a mid-level veterinary professional associate, like a physician assistant in human medicine. That person would work under the supervision of a veterinarian.

"Colorado is leading the way in this conversation, and we have great support to go ahead and move forward with this,” said Steele. "By doing that, we are opening up a whole new realm of people providing this care.”

The Dumb Friends League says CSU is in the process of creating a mid-level professional associate program for veterinary students. However, they say they can't do it the right way without legislation. As of publication, a bill to create such a position has not been proposed.

Lawmakers have introduced a bill that would renew the funding for the state’s veterinary education loan repayment program. It would also increase the amount or reimbursement veterinarians can receive and expand the program to offer the repayments to six people instead of four.

Denver7 is a proud sponsor of the Dumb Friends League.

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