Katherine Marraccini is a veterinarian and the Founder of Renew Integrative Veterinary Care. Dr. Marraccini writes about developments in veterinary medicine, tips for pet parents, and how to care for your pet. In the following article, Katherine explains the challenges currently facing veterinary medicine.
With promises of a well-paid, rewarding job where the care of animals is a daily activity, many dream of becoming veterinarians from being young children.
However, no career is going to be perfect, and some recent news stories have highlighted that veterinary medicine is facing challenges that not only affect current professionals, but those thinking about getting into the job and making animal care their career explains Katherine Marraccini.
Veterinarians at Higher Risk of Suicide
Since an in-depth report by the Journal of the American Veterinary Association (AVMA) in 2019 revealed that the rate of suicide among vets is higher than that of the general US population, concern has been high for those in the field of veterinary medicine explains Katherine Marraccini.
In the last month, the Guardian has reported that a similar mental health pandemic is affecting vets worldwide, with a colossal 70% of vets knowing a fellow veterinary professional who has taken their own life.
Katherine Marraccini says that the reasons for this mental health crisis include increasing demands from clients, along with dealing with customers who cannot afford to pay, resulting in vets having to euthanize animals whose owners cannot care for them.
The answer, say professionals, lies in a need for greater community support for local vets who give their all to look after the animals in their care, along with more access to mental health support.
Diversity Remains a Focus for the AMVA
The American Veterinary Association will this month vote on their new president, and candidates looking to score the top job are primarily concerned with making veterinary medicine available to more diverse communities, in both the consumer and provider markets says Katherine Marraccini.
BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) groups are known to be underrepresented within the veterinary community, and often this is down to these groups emerging from lower-income and less privileged areas.
Katherine Marraccini explains that making veterinary care not only more accessible to these groups but also a career path to strive towards is a huge focus for those concerned with the future of the profession.
Too Many Animals, and Not Enough Vets
It is unsurprising that current veterinary surgeons are so overwhelmed by the demands of their clients after learning that the sector has suffered from understaffing for many years. Katherine Marraccini says that what didn’t help the sector, as is the case all over the world, was the recent Covid-19 pandemic.
Putting aside for the moment the obvious issues of vet sickness during the pandemic, another less considered factor is that the increase for animal care soared exponentially.
Not only did more people buy, adopt, and take in more animals to keep them company during the lockdown period, but these animals have also suffered from being kept indoors. Katherine Marraccini says that owners have observed new health issues in their pets from being kept inside all day, reports The Atlantic, and vets were kept busy by constant phone calls as a result.
Some emergency veterinary hospitals have simply had to turn animals away, resulting in further distress to both professionals and owners. The solution seems obvious: the country needs more vets to keep up with the increasing number of pets explains Katherine Marraccini.
Abandoning Animals in Favor of Humans?
Some vets, after having spent years in the field, have decided to make a switch from treating animals to treating humans.
This is not altogether surprising: the demands of the job, as discussed above, have been well documented in recent years and the issues currently show few signs of abating. Primarily, the mental health of veterinarians is forcing them to leave their beloved animals in search of a different career.
Moving to treating humans instead makes sense, too; a lot of the biology and chemistry requirements of the animal field is like that of humans, and it does not require a veterinarian to start over from scratch when switching to human medicine.
Katherine Marraccini says that given that the worry that veterinary pay has not increased with inflation, it also makes sound financial sense for vets who wish to stay in the medical field but who would rather switch from pets to people.
Statistics taken from 2020 show that physicians made over double the salary of a veterinarian, and the disparity is not restricted to qualified veterinarians, either: veterinary technicians made less than a third of the salary of a nurse practitioner explains Katherine Marraccini.
It is a very real concern for those in the field of veterinary science that more future students of this vital field of work could choose to abandon animals care for that of humans. More must be done to keep the profession an economically attractive, as well as emotionally stable one.