CVMA releases position statement on the veterinary professional associate (mid-level practitioner) proposal

CVMA releases position statement on the veterinary professional associate (mid-level practitioner) proposal

CVMA Position Statement on the Veterinary Professional Associate (Mid-Level Practitioner) Proposal

Adopted by the CVMA Board of Directors February 17, 2022

The Colorado Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) strongly opposes the addition of a veterinary professional associate (VPA) or mid-level practitioner to the Colorado Veterinary Practice Act at this time due to unresolved questions.

CVMA recognizes that due to a combination of longstanding trends in addition to pressures resulting from the COVID pandemic, there is a shortage of veterinary services available in Colorado and across the country. CVMA understands that the introduction of a veterinary professional associate to the veterinary workforce has been proposed as a solution to address this issue. However, CVMA does not believe that the introduction of this type of professional is a solution that will effectively address the current shortage and is concerned the current proposal may in fact have unintended, negative consequences for veterinary services in Colorado.

In response to a CVMA survey, Colorado veterinary professionals have expressed concern about the proposed VPA; approximately 60% of respondents indicated they would not hire a VPA, and that a VPA would benefit neither the profession, nor their own practice. CVMA has a duty to represent the voice of veterinarians throughout Colorado; CVMA therefore opposes the creation of a veterinary professional associate in Colorado at this time.

Of the concerns reported in the survey by Colorado veterinarians, key concerns included:

  • Surgery: Colorado veterinarians are concerned about a VPA’s ability to perform surgery with only 2.5 years of schooling. Veterinary technicians do not perform surgery and have a similar amount of schooling; veterinarians perform surgery only after a 4-year doctoral program.
  • Liability: Colorado veterinarians report concerns about a VPA adding to the liability burden of a veterinarian. Many Colorado veterinarians indicated they are not willing to take on additional liability for more workers. VPAs would need to have their own liability coverage.
  • Veterinary technicians: Many Colorado veterinarians identified veterinary technicians as an underutilized group of veterinary professionals, and would prefer to elevate existing technicians rather than create an entirely new level of veterinary professional.

CVMA remains open to further conversations about this topic and is open to adjusting its position as additional information becomes available and as concerns are addressed.

Additional CVMA concerns include:

Unknown impact to the veterinary medicine system

  • There is a lack of data and analysis about the need for this new profession and whether graduates would be used effectively.
  • Veterinary technicians already represent an underutilized group of existing, qualified veterinary professionals. Training veterinarians to better utilize their existing technicians to expand the services they can offer is a better starting place to expand the veterinary workforce. We need to see what the impact is of fully utilizing technicians first before adding a new professional to the workforce.
  • The creation of this new veterinary professional may disadvantage new veterinarian graduates who spend nearly twice the amount of time in school and accordingly shoulder a greater debt load than a veterinary professional associate would. This would be a devastating loss to the profession.

Consumer protection is at risk

  • Unlike veterinarians and veterinary technicians who, to practice, must pass a national exam that assures both competency and protection of the public, the current proposal offers no pathway for veterinary professional associates to demonstrate competency.
  • Since 1985, Colorado law has required that all new professions undergo a sunrise review to determine the need for regulation by the state. Veterinary technicians in Colorado have just received a recommendation for competency-based regulation due to their potential to cause consumer harm. The proposed program has not addressed how this regulatory requirement would be met. Regulation is important from a consumer protection standpoint; to adequately protect consumers, there must be a consumer complaint process established and managed by a regulatory agency.

Existing regulations are prohibitive

  • There is an absence of state and national-level regulatory frameworks to allow these professionals to legally diagnose, prescribe, initiate treatment, and perform surgery under supervision. For example: Even if veterinary professional associates will be permitted to prescribe under Colorado state law, they would not be recognized as a prescriber at the federal level.
  • The creation of this new veterinary professional will not solve the shortage of veterinary services in rural areas. Rural veterinarians must be USDA-accredited to provide many services for food animals. This may disadvantage rural veterinarians who will be unable to leverage these new professionals to help provide additional veterinary capacity in rural parts of Colorado.
  • There is no academic programmatic accreditation established for the new CSU Master’s of Veterinary Clinical Care (MVCC) program. AVMA provides programmatic accreditation for veterinary colleges and programs for veterinary technicians. Programmatic accreditation is specific to degree programs, and is different from institutional accreditation, and an accrediting body must review each educational veterinary program to ensure standards are being maintained.

CVMA recognizes there are potential benefits of a VPA:

  • Creating this new level of professional may offer a career advancement opportunity for veterinary technicians looking to grow their careers in veterinary medicine.
  • Shelters and rescue groups may benefit from having a mid-level group of professionals to provide routine care such as vaccinations and spay and neuter surgeries for shelter animals.
  • Creating a mid-level professional may encourage a more diverse workforce to join the veterinary profession.

While Colorado Veterinary Practice Act is up for renewal in 2022, this is not the only time to address this issue and to consider adding a new veterinary professional to the profession. Changes can be proposed during any Colorado legislative session.

CVMA believes this could be a worthwhile concept, and that the concerns noted above should be studied further to understand the full economic implications and impacts to the veterinary profession as a whole, veterinary technicians and new DVM graduates, patient care, and consumer protection in Colorado.

Click here to view the results of the CVMA member survey on veterinary professional associates.