Vet Clinics Report Fewer Staff, Longer Wait Times
Local veterinary clinics are reporting a shortage of technicians. Adoptions of animals soared during the pandemic, leading to increased wait times at vet clinics.
“Now we have less staff, less vets and more pets, so the case load has skyrocketed,” said Dr. Connie Sillerud, president of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association.
Sillerud says vet techs, also called vet nurses, wear a lot of hats. But she says many vet techs have left the field. COVID-19 played a role in that.
“Because the threat to their health was bigger than the positive aspects of continuing to work,” said Sillerud.
Filling the empty positions has been challenging.
Dr. Graham Brayshaw from the Animal Humane Society says some of the local for-profit colleges that trained vet techs closed.
“Most vet techs in Minnesota came through Globe, MSB, Argosy,” said Brayshaw.
The shortage has been compounded by increased need. During COVID-19, pet adoptions increased. Animal hospital staff are reporting increased waits and often a lack of patience from customers.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen a significant uptick in people using foul language and really lashing out at people who greet them at the door and answer phones,” said Dr. Mike Henson from the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center. “It’s taking a toll.”
Henson says there are several vet tech programs in the works, but that won’t alleviate the shortage until a few years down the road.
“It takes several years to get them going and then two years to crank out a vet tech,” said Henson. “So that’s five to seven years until we actually have more vet techs being produced that are getting through and graduating into the work force.”
Some emergency vet clinics are even being forced to shut down. Henson says consider visiting an emergency vet clinic outside of the metro area if your pet needs emergency care.
Until then, people who work in the industry encourage patience and empathy for the workers who are still on the job.
“We try to get everyone in as soon as we can, especially if it’s an urgent matter. We try to get them seen and their animals taken care of,” said a vet tech from the Animal Humane Society named Kayla Johnson. “We really love critters and we want to help them.”