DVM recently covered the extreme shortage of rural veterinari
But we want to hear your personal experienes
Small animal veterinari
As a student graduating in the spring of 2011, I look forward to serving in a rural area. Do I have experience in rural areas working with rural veterinarians? yes. Was I raised in a rural area? Sort of. Have I taken every large/food animal elective course I could cram into my veterinary education? Youbetcha. Have I been told by rural men and women that in order to survive as a rural veterinarian, I'll need to grow some male anatomy?
I have heard all the complaints about the lack of men entering veterinary medicine. Is it because the schools aren't letting them in? Surely not. I applied twice to get in to vet school. And when I finally did get it, I found men who easily got in with lower GPAs than I did at my first application. I've sat through classes where they older male professors deliver special messages to "you boys in the back" when they bring up anything for consideration for a bovine practitioner. TUrns out, most of those boys aren't even going to go into large animal practices. Year after year I salivate as loan repayment programs are dangled in front of my face for rural vets. Who receives these scholarships? 75% are male recipients. Considering that ~80% of the class if female, this is just silly. I laughed at Pfizer's scholarship offer this year after the disappointment from last year's 100% male recipients for my school.
The biggest problem with the rural vet shortage is not the lack of males (they're either not trying hard enough to get the grades, or they're applying for other professional opportunities--- dentistry, law, medicine). It's the paradigm of rural America. These same people who complain about a lack of veterinary care are the ones who don't call the vet until they should call the backhoe. They spend twice as much on chronic problems with home remedies then they would by one consult with a vet. They try to avoid spending money with a veterinarian. WHen they finally do come around, they are shocked at "how expensive" the veterinarian is. Or they phone the clinic and want you to tell them what they can get at Wal_Mart to fix the problem.
If they do receive veterinary care somewhere, they will likely go to the oldest practitioner in town. Perhaps one whose secretary does more prescribing than they do. They go see "Ole Doc" because he's cheap. I know of a practitioner who graduated in the early 1980s who's still charging the same amount per head of animal worked as when he graduated! How am I supposed to come to rural america and compete with that??? How can I bring my nearly 6-figure debt load to that area and survive?
I will continue to apply for all of these programs, but I am continually disappointed when they all are received by male students. Perhaps I am not perceived as one who will practice with cattle for a long period because I am female.
There is a big difference between value here too. If a replacement calf costs $250.00 at the sale barn, how can I administer $300.00 of life-saving therapy? I guess there's a lot of short cuts that they don't teach in vet school that I'll have to learn in the field.
Have no doubt that I will be going to rural America. I have the mixed animal practice picked out and the contract has been offered. I'll negotiate when I'm finished with the NAVLE. My husband is from this part of the state, it's where his family lives and where he needs to be. We plan to raise our family there. I know that it will be a challenge to practice there. Don't get me wrong, I am an optimist (although this message doesn't look like it). I just wish everyone would stop placing the blame on female students for the lack of rural veterinarians. There's a whole lot more to blame than just vet school acceptance committees. They have been working for years on the most unbiased acceptance standards. Having a Y with every X shouldn't be one of them.
Large animal practice is a dying business. It is not an economical activity. The huge investment in time and money you made to acquire a DVM degree will not be repaid driving around the countryside treating cows or goats or horses or chickens. This assessment is not true for every town or county but is accurate for many perhaps most rural areas. Many vets, myself included, when confronted with this disagreeable reality decided to go into small animal practice.
For the eager, soon to graduate DVM, you can believe me or see for yourself.
What do you expect to earn in year 1? Year 2? Year 3? Year 4?
After deducting taxes and debt service what will be left to live on?
Eventually you will want to buy or start your own practice. Where will that money come from? In ten more years it will be even harder to hire a large animal associate. Anticipate working excessively as long as health and strength remain.
Fred Terrell DVM
As someone who is getting ready to graduate, I'm finding it difficult to even find jobs that are in the industry. Go to the AVMA Career site or even the classified
To the gal who had a 'solution'... MoRedVet
" I know of a practitioner who graduated in the early 1980s who's still charging the same amount per head of animal worked as when he graduated! How am I supposed to come to rural america and compete with that??? How can I bring my nearly 6-figure debt load to that area and survive?"
That is why there is a problem. I work for one of those veterinarians and he's wondering if he'll ever get somebody to buy his practice when he's ready to retire. He also suffers from 30 year old fee's but would suffer worse if he raised them because everybody in the area would think he's nuts and would refuse to pay them. And most of the cattle work we do these days is reproduction and 'wreck' repairs. When they bought the practice last 17 years ago (I started a year later), we've gone from 50% cattle, 50% small animal to 60% small animal and steadily declining cattle work. A lot of the older ranchers that brought their cattle in or had us come there are retired and if their family took over the farm, prefer to do all their own work in order to spare a 'dime' like you said.
We cen't even retail much for cattle medicine, vaccines & tags when what we pay is what is retailed through companies like Lextron and catalog companies. We keep our mark-up extremely low but we just can't compete with that.
Yes, there is no way we can afford to pay an associate at the way things are going. We have gone from 1.5 vets, 2 techs, 2-3 assistants and 1 book keeper to 1.5 vets, 2 techs (I'm one of them), 1 assistant and 0 book keepers and most days are quiet. There are not any practice managers or consultants who have any interest in looking at large animal or mixed animal practices. Banfield has no interest in purchasing them either because there just isn't any money in it.
Why do I stay? It's a labor of love & its home. What would I do if I wasn't a tech? I'd be a stay at home mom working on a urban fantasy novelist career.