How to navigate the decline of U.S. veterinarians

From rising tuition costs to an increase in pet ownership since March 2020, there are many causes behind the current shortage in U.S. veterinarians. When navigating this challenging reality, today’s veterinary hospital owners, associates, and veterinary school students should look for opportunity.

Today’s veterinarians are stretched thin. According to a recent survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), U.S. pet ownership increased from 67% of households to 70% in 2020. As the older generation of veterinarians retires, it’s clear that there’s ample opportunity — and the need — for aspiring hospital owners and recent veterinary school graduates to pursue their dreams.

The opportunity

Why is now a great time to buy or start a veterinary hospital? Simple: There’s an increased demand for veterinarians. Although the increase in pet ownership has led to new clientele, (which has put stress on established hospitals), this increase in potential customers provides an opening for emerging veterinary hospitals to prosper. As a new veterinary hospital owner, you likely won’t have to dedicate as many resources to marketing your new practice; just get the word out about your opening, and the need for your services should do the rest.

You also have the chance to set yourself apart from the competition. As other hospitals return to their usual operations pre-pandemic, you can provide convenient services those hospitals may no longer offer that were unique to the COVID-19 environment, such as virtual appointments, emergency services, and flexible hours. Additionally, many veterinary practices have been sold to corporate veterinary groups, where the menu of services and bedside manner are standardized. You have the chance to offer the kind of personalized, community-based care customers can find only at a local veterinary hospital.

Lastly, similar to owning a home, as a veterinary hospital owner, you can accumulate wealth. Your practice will likely be your most valuable asset, setting you up for a strong future financial position in retirement.

The precautionary measures

You may be wondering: 70% of U.S. households have pets … that’s a lot of customers and patients to serve. So, how can established and future veterinary hospital owners prevent the anticipated burnout (for themselves and their staff) that comes with long hours, few breaks, and busy days?

First, determine what services your hospital will continue to offer. If you provided virtual appointments, emergency care, and flexible hours during the pandemic and are finding that it’s no longer sustainable to offer those services, know that it’s ok to discontinue them. Just be sure to set reasonable and clear expectations with your customers: Communicate proper opening and closing times, weekly availability, and the types of services you will provide going forward. The care you provide is a marathon — not a sprint — and no one will benefit in the long run from you burning out.

Second, if you’re planning on joining your colleagues who have retired post-pandemic, put together a transition plan and clear exit strategy. Not only does this benefit your future successor, it also calms the minds of your staff, so they can remain focused on caring for the animals rather than stressing about their professional futures.

The outcome

With the veterinary industry booming, today’s established and aspiring hospital owners have the opportunity to achieve real success. At Provide, many of our veterinarian customers have seen 20% year-over-year (YOY) growth and are now looking to expand their established practices.

Although the increase in patients needing care can feel overwhelming, the opportunities in today’s industry outweigh the obstacles. Just be sure to care for you and your staff as you do your patients — you can’t pour from an empty cup, so creating balance at your hospital will be important as you navigate this post-COVID-19 market.

Looking to take advantage of the booming veterinary industry, and purchase or start your dream veterinary practice? Visit getprovide.com and get pre-qualified in two minutes or less. You can also browse our practice marketplace for available hospitals for sale in your area.

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This content is for informational purposes, and it does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, tax, or investment advice or other professional services by Provide or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, and it is being provided without any warranty whatsoever. Please consult with appropriate professionals related to your individual circumstances.

All lending is subject to review and approval. Provide, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fifth Third Bank, National Association.

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