Are Veterinary Midlevel Professionals in our Future?
For the first time in years, the veterinary community is considering adding a new position to the field of veterinary medicine. Proponents say that a mid-level position, similar to the nurse practitioner or physician assistant role in human medicine, could expand the availability of service, decrease veterinarian burnout, and increase revenue.
The Hole in the Middle
The skill gap is large in most veterinary offices. Veterinarians diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries, offer well exams and perform surgeries, while veterinarian technicians (VT) obtain specimens, assist in examinations and treatments, perform lab work and offer nursing care, in addition to many other tasks. If your practice is lucky, you also have at least one veterinary technician specialist (VTS) who has received extra training in a particular area of veterinary medicine, such as anesthesia, critical care or dental technology.
Although veterinary technicians and technician specialists perform valuable roles, they are only permitted to support your efforts. Adding a mid-level veterinary professional (MLVP) who can diagnose and treat minor issues can close the gap, allowing you to focus on more complicated problems.
What Would the Mid-Level Veterinary Professional Do?
MLVPs would have many of the same responsibilities of nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants. Depending on your needs and preferences, they might:
- Perform well exams
- Take medical histories
- Diagnose acute and chronic illnesses and conditions
- Order bloodwork and other lab tests
- Prescribe and refill medications
- Offer immunizations
- Perform minor procedures (biopsies, sutures, casting)
- Order and interpret X-rays, blood tests and other diagnostic tests
- Create treatment plans
- Assist during surgeries and procedures
- Educate pet owners’ regarding health issues
Benefits of the Mid-Level Position
The addition of a mid-level position offers several important benefits, including:
Thanks to that extra pair of hands, there may be fewer late nights and more time to recharge before tackling your busy waiting room in the morning.
Adding an MLVP or two means that your practice can see more patients and increase revenue. Financial performance improves when human medical practices employ non-physician providers, according to a report by the Medical Group Management Association. It’s very likely that veterinary practices would experience a similar financial benefit.
Reduced Wait Times
Emergencies disrupt your schedule, resulting in long wait times for clients. If you had an MLVP, you would be free to take care of an emergency while your associate handled the less urgent appointments.
New Career Path
The stiff competition for veterinary school admissions and the high cost of attendance keep some people from becoming veterinarians. The MLVP would provide another way to enter the field, plus establish a career path for veterinary technicians beyond the specialist designation.
More Help for Rural Areas
Veterinarian shortages in rural areas have been a long-standing problem. MVLPs would improve access to care in those areas.
Although the MLVP position is still in the discussion stage, adding a mid-level position may benefit many veterinarians who are burdened by heavy patient loads and are looking for a way to better meet the needs of their clients.