Episode #185 – How the Veterinary Industry and Profession Has Bounced Back Since the Pandemic

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #185 - How the Veterinary Industry and Profession Has Bounced Back Since the Pandemic
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Julea: Welcome to “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health thought leader and Animal Health executive recruiter Stacy Pursell provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary Employers hire top talent, while helping animal health and veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast episode, we’ll be talking about how the Veterinary industry and profession has bounced back since the COVID-19 pandemic. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Julea. As always, I’m glad to be here.

Julea: Stacy, we are touched upon the fact that the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession has bounced back relatively quickly since the pandemic and the recession started. That has especially been the case in the Veterinary profession, is that true?

Stacy: Yes, that’s correct.

Julea: So, what will we be discussing today?

Stacy: Today, I’d like to talk about how the Veterinary industry and profession have bounced back, specifically the way in which it has bounced back, and where it stands today.

Julea: Okay, where would you like to start?

Stacy: Well, I would like to start with a monthly publication from the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association. That publication is called Insiders’ Insight, and the latest issue did have some insight into what has been happening in the Veterinary industry.

Julea: Tell us about this insight Stacy. What is happening?

Stacy: This latest issue contained results of a survey that the VHMA conducted of its member practices. The survey covered a wide range of questions regarding issues that are currently impacting the profession and that are likely to impact it in the future. There were plenty of slightly surprising results from the survey.

These were related to survey questions about the caseload that veterinary practices are experiencing and the revenue that is resulting from that caseload.

Julea: Are caseloads and revenue down?

Stacy: No, actually, just the opposite, and that’s what’s slightly surprising considering the fact that we’re in the middle of a pandemic and a recession. You would think that both of those things would be down, or at the very least flat, as compared to last year. But that is not the case.

In fact, 77% of respondents indicated that their caseload is currently higher than normal for this time of year. And on top of that, 73% indicated that their revenue is higher than normal.

Julea: Wow, this is incredible information Stacy! That’s three-quarters of the practices that were part of the survey. Did the report say how much their revenue has increased?

Stacy: It did. According to the results of the survey, the overall revenue growth was 14.6% in June of this year compared to June of 2019. That breaks down to a 15.9% increase in feline revenue and 14.3% increase in canine revenue. And if I forgot to mention it, the data collected from this survey is representative of companion animal practices only.

Julea: It certainly sheds some light on how people are treating their pets during the pandemic, doesn’t it?

Stacy: It does! As we’ve discussed before, more people are adopting pets than ever before. In fact, some animal shelters are literally running out of animals. That’s because people are staying at home because of the pandemic, and because they’re spending so much time at home, they’ve become more likely to adopt a pet. This is just as true for people who live alone as it is for people who live with others, including family situations.

Not only that, since people are spending so much time with their pets, they’ve become more attuned to their pets’ health needs. As a result, they’re taking these pets to the vet on a more consistent basis. They want to make sure that they’re taken care of and that they’re healthy.

Julea: But Stacy, there is a recession happening right now. Wouldn’t you expect that people would be taking their pets to the vet less frequently and not more frequently?

Stacy: On the face of things, that would appear to make sense. However, there are some other factors at work, and they are definitely affecting the situation.

Julea: What factors are those?

Stacy: First, there’s the stimulus money that the federal government is spending. The government sent out checks when the recession first started, and then it provided an unemployment bonus of $600 per week for those who were out of a job because of the coronavirus. That money helped many people, including pet owners, to “bridge the gap” in their finances.

Julea: And that included taking their pets to the veterinarian?

Stacy: Yes, that included taking their pets to the veterinarian. Another factor is the way in which Americans view their pets. I would have to say that for the majority of people, they view their pets as a member of their family. As a result, they strive to take care of their pets in almost the same way as they would a member of their family. In some cases, that means making financial sacrifices. It’s not uncommon for people to go without something for themselves because they put the money toward Veterinary care for their pet.

Julea: Was that also reflected in this survey?

Stacy: It was. The survey asked participants this question: “How is the cost of Veterinary care currently impacting your clients’ decisions to accept your care recommendations?”

The most popular answer was “Clients don’t seem any more or less concerned about cost” at 60%. The second-most popular answer was “Clients are more concerned about the cost, but are still accepting our recommendations” at 27%.

So you put those two percentages together, and what you have is 87% of pet owners who are still accepting the care recommendations of their veterinarians and paying for those recommendations.

Julea: That is enlightening. It sounds as though proper Veterinary care is a high priority in this country, even in the midst of a recession.

Stacy: That is absolutely the case, and it’s been that way for quite a while. In fact, the same thing happened during the past two recessions. Even in the face of a recession, pet owners made Veterinary care a priority for their pets. So that is another big factor that helps to explain the results of the VHMA survey.

Julea: What else did the survey reveal?

Stacy: Well, it revealed some things that are not exactly surprising, given what we’ve already discussed. The survey asked participants what pain points they’re struggling with the most, and participants were allowed to select their top three answers. The most popular answer was “staff mental fatigue” at 76%.

Julea: Wow, once again, that’s three-quarters of the practices.

Stacy: Yes, and the second-most popular answer was “client irritability,” which includes rude or abusive behavior toward the staff.

Julea: We have talked about that, too Stacy.

Stacy: Yes, veterinarians are having to deal with more rude behavior from pet owners these days. In fact, some practices have fired some of their clients. After all, there is only so much that people can take.

Julea: What do you think is the cause of this?

Stacy: A few things, starting with the fact that we’re all in a stressful situation with this pandemic and recession. People are feeling the stress, they’re not dealing with it well, and they’re taking it out on other people. And as we’ve already mentioned, many people treat their pets like a member of the family. So if there’s something physically wrong with their pet, that’s likely to add even more stress to the situation.

Julea: What was the third-most popular answer to that question?

Stacy: It was “increased client visits” at 40%.

Julea: You are right, that does make sense, given everything that we have discussed. More people are adopting pets, and more pet owners are taking their pets in for Veterinary care. So it would make sense that would be a pain point for practices. Stacy, how are veterinary practices dealing with this increase in caseload from a personnel point of view? We’re there some layoffs when the lockdowns first began?

Stacy: Yes, there were some but not many in the veterinary profession, but the results of the VHMA survey shed some light on this, as well. The survey asked participants the following question: “To date what percent of your staff was furloughed, laid off, or stayed home for any length of time due to the pandemic?”

There was good news in the responses to this question, as 41% of participants indicated that only 1% of their staff fell into this category. At the other end of the spectrum, only 2.5% indicated that “more than 90%” of their staff fell into that category.

Julea: That IS good news!

Stacy: Yes. In short, most Veterinary practice employees are still employed and will still be employed when the pandemic is over, according to the survey respondents. So, while there were some layoffs in the Veterinary industry when the pandemic first began and the lockdowns started, those layoffs have not been as widespread or as prolific as they have been in other industries. There simply isn’t any reason to lay off Veterinary personnel, as you can see by the numbers that we’ve already discussed.

Julea: That is right. Caseloads are up and revenue is up for most practices. In other words, business is doing rather well, and practices need the personnel in order to keep up with the demand that they’re experiencing.

Stacy: That’s exactly right. Another questions that the VHMA survey asked was this one: “In the month of July, did you reduce staff hours and by how much compared to June?”

A whopping 96% of respondents said that they did not reduce staff hours during the month of July. That’s nearly everybody, which reinforces just how busy companion animal Veterinary practices are right now.

Julea: And Stacy, correct me if I am wrong, but practices are still employing all the same COVID-19 safety precautions and measures, right?

Stacy: Yes, that’s correct. According to the survey, 78% of respondents indicated that they will continue to be in COVID-19 operational mode going forward. That’s nearly eight out of every 10 practices.

Julea: And those precautions sometimes slow things down, don’t they?

Stacy: Yes, they do, but since practices have been employing them for months now, the delays are not nearly as long as they were at the beginning of the pandemic.  Veterinary practice employees are now in a regular routine and rhythm when it comes to COVID-19 precautions, and that has also been a positive.

Julea: Stacy, we are just about out of time. Is there anything else that you’d like to add before we end today’s episode?

Stacy: Yes, I’d like to summarize all of the information that we discussed today, because I believe it’s very important.

Before the pandemic and the recession began, companion animal Veterinary practices were busy and they were hiring. Demand for Veterinary services were high. After an initial dip due to the pandemic, demand for those services are even greater than they were a year ago, on average. While that might seem difficult to believe, it’s definitely the case. The numbers back it up. The results of the VHMA survey echo other surveys and other statistics within the Veterinary industry and Veterinary profession.

While an increase caseload and increased revenue are good problems to have, all things considered, there are other problems that are not good to have, starting with rude and abusive clients. Employee burnout is another top concern, since caseloads have continued to rise and job openings have been difficult to fill. So the bottom line with all of this is that, despite the pandemic and the recession, there is still a huge demand for Veterinary care in this country. That means there is still a demand for Veterinary talent to help practices meet the needs of their clients.

So, as we’ve discussed recently, this is further indication that there is opportunity in the marketplace right now for Veterinary professionals. There are opportunities for them to improve their employment situation and grow their career.

Julea: Stacy, thank you once again so much for all this great information. And for those people who are considering a job change, there are many employment opportunities on The VET Recruiter website

Stacy: Yes, there are. For those listeners who want to change their current situation and are interested in exploring Animal Health jobs or Veterinary jobs, I invite them to visit our website at www.thevetrecruiter.com and browse through our current job openings.

Julia: Once again, the website address for The VET Recruiter is www.thevetrecruiter.com. Stacy, as always, thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: It is my pleasure, Julea. I look forward to our next episode of the Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider!