Retaining and attracting equine practitioners has been trending downward over the last several years. Concern for the future has prompted the AAEP to make this the top priority of the association’s strategic plan. After researching and gathering data, the AAEP formed the AAEP Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability as part of a campaign to transform and sustain equine practice and “Change the Numbers.” The Commission will develop, oversee and assist with the execution of programs designed to increase the sustainability of equine practice for the betterment of the equine veterinarian and the welfare of the horse.
The Commission consists of five subcommittees developed around the key areas affecting the sustainability of equine practice, as identified in previous research. The subcommittees include Compensation, Emergency Coverage, Students, Internships, and Practice Culture. Each subcommittee has co-chairs, an officer liaison, and 12-15 members each. The Commission is governed by a steering committee that consists of the AAEP Officers and the Chairs of each subcommittee. The steering committee meets regularly to share progress.
The subcommittees will concentrate on program development and implementation in order to transform equine practice by changing the numbers. Those numbers include increasing the number of graduates entering equine practice, the number of equine practitioners remaining in the equine space five years after entry, the compensation equine veterinarians earn at entry and in their first five years, and the number of equine doctors who would recommend equine practice as a career to others. In addition, the goal is to decrease the burden of emergency care, minimize burnout, and increase satisfaction with the internship experience. The subcommittees also aim to support the development of healthy practice cultures, professional boundaries, and veterinarian wellbeing.
AAEP Commission Subcommittees
The Compensation Subcommittee will ensure that members understand current financial numbers, the present market demands, and the actions they can take to increase their practice’s salaries, benefits and overall compensation to be competitive and equitable. The goal is to make compensation more attractive to encourage more veterinarians to pursue a career in equine practice. The key metric is to increase compensation for early career positions in private practice.
Emergency Coverage Subcommittee
The Emergency Coverage Subcommittee will cultivate and identify creative solutions for handling emergency coverage work, create member educational opportunities highlighting various models used in all types of practices, and include examples of client communications. Veterinarians can then utilize these examples when creating co-ops or other networks for coverage. The key metric is to increase uptake on alternative service models for emergency coverage.
The Student Subcommittee will review all of AAEP’s current student activities, both educational as well as chapter assistance programs; make recommendations for how to keep improving the student perceptions of equine practice; provide assistance to those who wish to evaluate externships and internships; determine the type of support that AAEP needs to provide to the chapters; and ensure that AAEP is meeting student members’ current needs. The key metric is to increase the number of students entering equine practice.
Practice Culture Subcommittee
The Practice Culture Subcommittee will define those aspects that make up the “culture” of a practice. It will also develop solutions and best practices to improve the culture of equine practice. Such areas range from creative work schedules, internal practice communications, improved onboarding for new associates, policies relative to family leave, and appropriate boundary-setting. The ultimate goal is to create a mindset shift of choosing colleagues’ health and welfare over economics or client priorities. The key metric is to increase job satisfaction with equine practice.
The Internship Subcommittee will foster a transparent and ethical internship system that facilitates placing recent veterinary graduates into programs that are mutually beneficial to the intern doctor and the practice, thus setting both up for long-term success in equine practice. The key metric here is increased intern satisfaction in the equine practice internship program.
Enthusiasm for AAEP Commission
Dedicated volunteers are taking on the Commission work with the help of the AAEP staff. There is great enthusiasm and dedication to this effort, and the winds of change have begun to blow.