VetNetwork Blog

Feds Worry About Government Veterinarian Shortage

0 Comments Posted by Alyssa Noonan in Industry Trends on Friday, March 27th, 2009.

It turns out that Uncle Sam still wants you – especially if you’re a veterinarian. A new report by the Government Accountability Office takes a look at the number of veterinarians employed by the federal government and reaches the conclusion that more veterinarians are needed on the federal payroll.

You can read the full highlights from the GAO report here. There are 24 federal agencies that employ veterinarians, and most of them are either experiencing a shortage of DVMs or are expecting such a shortage in the coming years.

According to the report:

For example, (U.S. Department of Agriculture’s) Food Safety Inspection Service has not been fully staffed over the past decade, and (Health and Human Services’) National Institutes of Health faces challenges recruiting veterinarians that specialize in laboratory animal medicine and pathology.

That shortage is expected to get worse in the coming years, according to the GAO. By the end of 2011, 30 percent of the USDA’s Animal and Plan Health Inspection Service (APHIS) veterinary workforce will be eligible to retire. Veterinarians employed by the federal government play an integral role in public and animal health, the GAO says, and a shortage can have “serious repercussions.”

When resources are scarce, fighting begins, and it’s no different in the federal  realm, it seems. The GAO indicated that government agencies “compete against one another for veterinarians”, and pointed to APHIS and FSIS as an example of two agencies locked in a struggle for veterinarians. Because the work at APHIS offers better salaries and more room for advancement, veterinarians are fleeing agencies like FSIS and flocking to APHIS, a move that has a negative effect overall on federal resources.

The GAO is recommending the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services make a full assessment of their veterinary needs and figure out what they’re lacking and what they need in terms of a workforce. What happens after that isn’t clear, but if the problem is as bad as the GAO indicates, a national drive to recruit new veterinarians (or to pull more DVMs into government service) might not be far off.

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