Demand for Veterinary Services Has Led to a Surge in Wait Times
WKYC reports that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a shortage of veterinarians across the country, a shortage that has led to a dramatic escalation in wait times.
According to the American Pet Products Association, as many as 11.38 million households rescued or bought pets during the pandemic. This surge in pet ownership has been attributed to the need of pet owners to find ways of coping with the sense of loneliness, isolation and even mental health declines that they have experienced as a result of stay-at-home orders, the rise of remote work and fears about in-person social interactions. become pet owners over the course of the pandemic. As people spent more and more time at home, these feelings of loneliness and isolation, as well as the burgeoning mental health crisis, led many people to buy or rescue pets. Pet ownership is widely seen as therapeutic and it’s no wonder that during the biggest crisis that America has faced in decades, people turned to pets for comfort.
At the same time, veterinarians were dealing with a surge in demand for their services, the need to adopt new Covid-10 health and safety protocols, and a trimming of their staff size in response to the need to maintain social distancing requirements. This has led to scenarios where veterinarians have had to deal with historic levels of demand for their services, even when their staff sizes have been dramatically reduced. Many veterinarians are overwhelmed with new business and this has led to wait times of several hours.
You see, the supply of veterinarians has remained stable, even as the demand for their services has risen. At present, there is a shortage of up to 7,000 veterinarians in the United States. Veterinary schools produced just 3200 graduates a year. That is far not enough to meet the need to cover those veterinarians who retire and meet the demand that has arisen as a result of this surge in pet ownership.
That shortage means that veterinarians are forced to see more and more patients each shift, leading to burnout as well as lengthier wait times. There are simply not enough shifts or veterinarians to cover the demand. Burnout threatens to reduce the desire of some veterinarians to remain in the field and to make the field less attractive to potential veterinarians.
Practices and clinics have responded by increasing shift times, but this has barely made a dent in demand. They are drowning in new business. Some practices have reported five hour waits, with some even reporting wait times of as much as seven hours.
Veterinary schools are responding by trying to help students deal with stress. Sadly, suicide rates have risen among vetenerians, making their mental health something that schools are eager to boost.
One theory is that the surge in demand is a result not only of the number of pet owners, but the fact that with so many people staying at home for so long, pet owners notice problems with their pets even earlier than before and are acting quickly to take their pets to the best animal hospitals to deal with those problems.