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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To determine whether career choice and starting salary of new DVM graduates in the US were associated with their educational debt accrued during veterinary school.

SAMPLE

Up to 48,527 fourth-year students at US veterinary schools who responded to the AVMA Senior Survey in 2001 through 2021 and accepted a full-time position or advanced education opportunity.

PROCEDURES

To determine whether career choice was associated with educational debt, multiple linear regression was performed, controlling for graduation year, gender, age, marital status, having children, tuition level, and school location. The correlation between educational debt and starting salary was also determined.

RESULTS

On average, mean educational debt increased by $6,110 each successive year. A mean of 60.5% of respondents accepted positions in private practice (public practice, 3.3%; advanced education, 36.2%). Respondents choosing public practice had a mean of $24,913 less debt than those choosing advanced education, controlling for other factors. Respondents choosing public practice also had less debt than those choosing private practice, but debt did not differ significantly between private practice and advanced education. The correlation between educational debt and starting salary was significant but low (r = 0.177).

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Findings suggested that the amount of debt incurred during veterinary school was associated with new veterinarians’ career paths. Notably, graduates with higher debt levels appeared to seek higher paying jobs or clinical training that might lead to higher paying jobs, leaving public practice—a field in which critical needs have been identified—underrepresented despite the availability of loan forgiveness programs and other incentives.

Restricted access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

The economic literature on veterinary technicians is limited, and the AVMA Task Force on Veterinary Technician Utilization has recommended increasing veterinary technician economic research in several areas. The aim of this review was to provide an economic overview of the veterinary technician profession based on intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Data sources for this paper include articles and texts from the veterinary, human medical, and service industries concerning veterinary technicians and from economic and psychology literature. Findings of this literature review indicated that veterinary technician intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are complex. Veterinary technicians appear to find value and meaning in their job tasks, which contribute positively toward job satisfaction and self-identity. Low financial rewards, workplace incivility, and work overload appear to be problematic for the individual veterinary technician, veterinary technician profession, and veterinary industry as a whole. The economic and psychology literature indicated that changes to the profession, such as increasing veterinary technician utilization, should simultaneously incorporate the economic needs and values of veterinary technicians and veterinary practice operators.

Restricted access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

Pet weight may be difficult for veterinary professionals to address with clients, particularly when pets are overweight or obese. The objective of this study was to characterize the communication processes and content of weight-related conversations occurring between veterinary professionals and clients.

SAMPLE

Audio-video recordings of 917 veterinarian-client-patient interactions involving a random sample of 60 veterinarians and a convenience sample of clients.

PROCEDURES

Companion animal veterinarians in southern Ontario, Canada, were randomly recruited, and interactions with their clients were audio-video recorded. Interactions were reviewed for mentions of weight, then further analyzed by means of a researcher-generated coding framework to provide a comprehensive assessment of communication specific to weight-related interactions.

RESULTS

463 of 917 (50.5%) veterinary-client-patient interactions contained an exchange involving the mention of a single patient’s (dog or cat) weight and were included in final analysis. Of the 463 interactions, 150 (32.4%) involved a discussion of obesity for a single patient. Of these, 43.3% (65/150) included a weight management recommendation from the veterinary team, and 28% (42/150) provided clients with a reason for pursuing weight management.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Findings illustrate opportunities to optimize obesity communication to improve the health and wellbeing of veterinary patients.

Restricted access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To evaluate the effects of a cognitive-behavioral skills building program (ie, MINDSTRONG; The Ohio State University) on the mental health outcomes and healthy lifestyle beliefs and behaviors of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students.

Sample

DVM students (n = 62) before beginning their program at a large public Midwest land-grant university.

Procedures

All 171 incoming DVM students (class of 2024) were required to take the cognitive-behavioral skills building program (7 weeks in length) before starting their 2020 school year. Students were given the option to consent to the study portion of the program. Consenting participants completed a pre- and postsurvey containing demographic questions and 5 valid and reliable scales, including the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 that assesses depressive symptoms, the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 that evaluates anxiety, the Brief Inventory of Perceived Stress that measures stress, and the Healthy Lifestyle Beliefs and Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors scales. Descriptive statistics described sample characteristics, paired t tests assessed changes over time in the outcomes Personal Wellness Assessment, and Cohen’s d determined effect sizes.

Results

62 DVM students completed both surveys. Postintervention, students had significant improvements in depressive symptoms, anxiety, and healthy lifestyle beliefs and behaviors.

Clinical Relevance

Although this study used a small convenience sample of DVM students from a single university, a cognitive-behavioral skills building program demonstrated the ability to decrease rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation and improve healthy lifestyle beliefs and behaviors. Requiring DVM students to participate in such programming could provide benefit during their professional education and throughout their careers.

Restricted access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To analyze the readability of discharge summaries distributed to owners of pets newly diagnosed with cancer.

SAMPLE

118 discharge summaries provided to pet owners following initial consultation.

PROCEDURES

A database search identified records of new patients that had been presented to the North Carolina State Veterinary Hospital medical oncology service between June 2017 and January 2019. Owner-directed portions of the summaries provided at the time of discharge were copied and pasted into a document and stripped of all identifying information. Readability of summaries was assessed with the use of 2 previously established readability calculators: the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL) and Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) tests.

RESULTS

Mean ± SD FKGL was 11.9 ± 1.1 (median, 11.9; range, 8.6 to 15.5; target ≤ 6), and the mean ± SD FRE score was 43 ± 5.9 (median, 42.7; range, 25.5 to 58.1; target ≥ 60). There were no significant differences in FKGL or FRE scores among discharge summaries for patients with the 4 most common tumor types diagnosed or the described treatment options. Ninety-three percent (110/118) of summaries were scored as difficult or very difficult to read.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Owner-directed written information regarding a diagnosis of cancer at a single teaching hospital exceeded readability levels recommended by the American Medical Association and NIH and was above the average reading level of most US adults. Efforts to improve readability are an important component of promoting relationship-centered care and may improve owner compliance and patient outcomes.

Restricted access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To characterize and compare fourth-year students of US veterinary schools graduating with and without related educational debt (ie, DVM debt) from 2001 through 2020.

SAMPLE

45,756 fourth-year veterinary students who participated in the annual AVMA Senior Survey from 2001 through 2020.

PROCEDURES

Survey data were summarized for variables hypothesized to be associated with DVM debt. Multivariable modeling was used to investigate associations between these variables and the likelihood of graduating with DVM debt.

RESULTS

Mean DVM debt increased fairly steadily from $56,824 in 2001 (n = 1,587) to $157,146 in 2020 (2,859). Of 45,756 students, 6,129 (13.4%) had no DVM debt. Attending Tuskegee University and having children (both men and women) were associated with an increased likelihood of DVM debt. Attending certain other veterinary schools and more recent survey year were associated with a decreased likelihood. For 2020, the likelihood of DVM debt decreased with increasing percentage of tuition paid by family and increased with increasing percentage of tuition paid by educational loans, being a woman with children, and increasing total cost of attendance. No association was found with state cost of living index or per capita income.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Results suggested a growing rift between US veterinary students who cannot afford tuition and fees without accumulating financially concerning levels of debt and those who have the financial ability or family situation to fully fund veterinary school. Efforts should be undertaken to recruit across socioeconomic statuses and provide meaningful scholarships to students with greatest financial needs to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in veterinary medicine.

Full access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To identify factors that individuals in clinical residency training programs consider when making a choice for or against a career in academic clinical medicine.

SAMPLE

207 veterinarians in clinical residency programs.

PROCEDURES

An online survey was distributed to 1,053 veterinarians participating in clinical residency training programs overseen by organizations recognized by the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties. Results were compiled and decision factors were analyzed by means of principal component analysis to identify latent factors from the set of survey items. These factors were then used to construct a decision tree to predict respondents’ choice of whether to enter academic medicine or private clinical practice.

RESULTS

207 (20%) responses were analyzed. Ninety-three of 194 (48%) respondents reported a desire to pursue a career in academic medicine, and 101 (52%) reported a desire to pursue a career in private clinical practice. Principal component analysis identified 14 items clustered on research, clinical teaching, classroom teaching, and clinical practice. A decision tree was constructed that resulted in an overall accuracy of 82% in predicting a resident's career choice of academic medicine versus private clinical practice. The construct of professional benefits had a negative effect on desiring a career in academic medicine, whereas the construct of professional priorities and having had a positive residency training experience had a positive effect on desiring a career in academic medicine.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Understanding factors that attract and encourage residents who might have an aptitude and interest in academic medicine holds important implications for addressing the shortage of veterinarians entering academic medicine.

Restricted access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To evaluate income and family planning decisions of American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM) diplomates.

SAMPLE

98 ACZM diplomates.

PROCEDURES

An online survey was sent to 201 ACZM diplomates. Participation was voluntary.

RESULTS

98 (49%) diplomates responded to the survey. The most commonly reported income categories were $90,000 to $94,999, $100,000 to $104,999, and $110,000 to $114,999. Overall, the mean of the salary-category midpoint responses was $105,357 but was $122,917 for those in academia and $94,508 for those working in zoos and aquaria. When incomes of males and females were matched (24 pairs matched for gender and age), no difference in income was observed. There were no significant differences in income between males and females with and without children. Diplomates who did not complete a residency had significantly higher incomes than diplomates who did. Sixteen of 21 (76%) females and 9 of 19 (47%) males reported delaying having children because of their career. Additionally, a higher percentage of females with children (13/20 [65%]) than males with children (3/19 [16%]) felt that having children had had a negative effect on their career. Thirty-five of 41 (85%) females without children and 4 of 9 (44%) males without children thought having children would have negatively affected their careers.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Although substantial differences in income between female and male ACZM diplomates were not identified, differences in family planning and perceptions of the impact of having children on their careers did exist.

Restricted access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To assess the impact of a novel communication and consultation skills model (WISE COACH [WC]) on dog owner perceptions of veterinarians and projected spending on veterinary care.

SAMPLE

1,200 US dog owners who had visited a veterinarian within the prior 18 months.

PROCEDURES

Video recordings of 2 staged client consultations were made, with the veterinarian following the WC recommendations in one video and not following them in the other (control). Participants were randomly assigned to view one of the videos and completed an online survey to assess their perceptions and projected spending. Qualitative responses were coded to identify themes.

RESULTS

The veterinarian was rated significantly higher in the WC video than in the control video for the characteristics first impression, skilled and knowledgeable, cares about me, cares about my pet, and communicates clearly, and was rated significantly lower for the characteristic rushed or abrupt. Participants who viewed the WC video were significantly more likely to follow the veterinarian’s recommendations, return to see the veterinarian, and recommend the veterinarian. They were also approximately 1.4 times as likely to approve the full recommended treatment plan, and their projected total spending was approximately 15% higher than projected spending for participants who viewed the control video.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Results showed improved client perceptions, client retention, quality of patient care, and financial metrics when the veterinarian followed the WC recommendations. Further study is needed to determine whether this model may also improve veterinarian well-being by improving client relationships and decreasing resistance to recommendations.

Open access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To compare resident and intern salaries with current regional living wages as a quantitative estimate of financial strain.

SAMPLE

152 residency programs and 141 internship programs listed with the Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching Program for the 2021–2022 training year.

PROCEDURES

Data were collected for program annual salary and location. Regional living wage for each location was determined with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Living Wage Calculator, and annual salary was compared with living wage to estimate income surplus before and after taxes. Results for programs in academia and private practice were compared. Spearman correlation was used to determine whether program annual salary was significantly associated with regional living wage.

RESULTS

Mean ± SD income surplus before taxes was $7,786 ± 9,426 for clinical residency programs, $16,672 ± 5,105 for laboratory animal programs, and $5,829 ± 8,119 for internships. Academic residencies and internships offered salaries significantly lower than those offered in private practice, and income surpluses before and after taxes were significantly lower for academic programs than for private practice programs. There were weak and moderate, respectively, correlations between program annual salary and regional living wage for residency (r = 0.369) and internship (r = 0.570) programs.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Postgraduate training prolongs financial instability, and annual salaries generally do not meet the minimum income standard of a living wage. Financial stress has implications for mental health and diversity, and these findings invite deeper consideration of current remuneration practices for veterinary residents and interns.

Open access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association