It is encouraging that the U.S. Office of Personnel and Management has formed the Talent Management Advisory Committee to bring agencies together in a forum to discuss a strategic workforce plan regarding current and future federal needs for veterinarians. State and federal agencies, especially ones that target food safety and wildlife and ecologic sustainability, should articulate the full value of the veterinary profession to their missions and take steps to support a coherent plan to strengthen the profession’s role in research, food safety, animal welfare, public health, and ecologic sustainability. The public interest is put at significant risk when attention to workforce needs related to these issues is not addressed. A number of personnel policies—from recruitment strategies and hiring practices to retention initiatives, including child care and parental leave that might attract female candidates—should change to improve the federal government’s opportunity to employ veterinarians.
Recommendation 1C: The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, American Animal Hospital Association, and American Veterinary Medical Association should develop realistic strategies for meeting companion-animal veterinary medical workforce needs. Building such a strategy requires reliable national data on consumer demand for companion-animal care, the economics of private practice, the role of veterinary technicians in extending companion-animal care, and the implications for the profession of growth in accredited and non-accredited veterinary schools both inside and outside the United States.
The demand for a veterinary education among U.S. citizens remains high, yet the economic reality regarding student educational costs in relation to modest practice incomes is worrisome. Companion-animal veterinary medicine has come to dominate the curriculum and resources of veterinary schools, sometimes to the detriment of other fields of veterinary medicine, so it is important to understand as clearly as possible the demand for needs for companion-animal services, and to plan accordingly by developing a strategy to support the clinical faculty, specialists, and others required to train new companion-animal practitioners and companion-animal paraprofessionals. A growing part of the future companion-animal veterinary workforce will consist of veterinarians who graduated from colleges outside the United States. The impacts of that trend on U.S. veterinary schools, companion-animal practitioners, and the quality of and access to a veterinary education, particularly as the profession attempts to increase the numbers of underrepresented minorities in its ranks, must be studied closely. This analysis must be approached in the context of meeting the need for veterinary services in all sectors of the profession, and seek to balance the actual demand for companion-animal veterinary medical practitioners with the capacity to meet those needs within current and future economic realities.