Veterinary shortages are on the rise across rural Western Canadian communities. 

Alberta Care Centre of Strathmore’s Practice Owner and Veterinarian Dr. Jodi Viste explained with fewer vets going into rural practices, they are seeing increased vet burn out rates, closures due to the lack of manpower, loss of after-hours care in these locations and ultimately, decreased service for small and large animal patients.

“Clients are having to drive over an hour or more with injured or ill animals in order to seek attention and this can have an impact on outcome.”

Viste added there are fewer vet graduates from rural communities or have been exposed to rural communities and are less likely to move there. There are also fewer graduates that are interested in a lifestyle of a mixed or large animal practice because of the longer hours, on call coverage and lower salaries than the small animal practices that are in the cities.

There was already a vet shortage in Western Canada before COVID but throughout the pandemic pet ownership drastically rose, which added even more stress to an already struggling vet workforce. .

“During the pandemic, there was a high rate of veterinary burn-out and many competent veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians left our profession.”

Viste says veterinary medicine is very diverse and there is a need everywhere – clinical practice, specialization, teaching, research, food/drug companies.  In short, they need more vets wherever they can get them.

Viste have been assisting outside the communities to help future vets become interested in a career at rural practices.

“I have been involved in reviewing applications to get into veterinary school and helping to highlight potential rural applicants for interviews, becoming involved in focus groups in trying to address this crisis in our province and by encouraging corporate veterinary groups to consider investing in rural practices.”

Viste has also been putting on educational events at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) and The Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) to emphasize how great mixed animal veterinary practice can be.

Despite the shortage in the communities Viste still says there is nothing more fulfilling than being there for people on the best and worst days for their pets/animals.

“The sense of community in being a rural vet is very rewarding – it is an honor to be involved in community events such as the Strathmore Stampede, 4H talks, school tours/presentations and education through the media.”

Viste asks the community to be patient and kind to vets during this shortage, as she can assure you they are all doing their best to be there for the community when needed. 

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