13 Jan CVMA position statement opposes mid-level practitioner
CVMA Position Statement on the Veterinary Professional Associate (Mid-Level Practitioner)
Updated by the CVMA Board of Directors January 13, 2023; Originally adopted February 17, 2022
CVMA strongly opposes the mid-level veterinary practitioner as a new professional, and opposes any education program that would educate and graduate such a professional.
Origin of the mid-level veterinary practitioner
During the 2021-2022 renewal of the Colorado Veterinary Practice Act, an idea surfaced to create a mid-level professional in veterinary medicine (this professional would be similar to a physician assistant in human medicine). The proposed profession has been offered to alleviate worker shortages and access to veterinary care by increasing practice efficiency. CVMA’s Practice Act Sunset Review Task Force considered the concept and presented the idea to the CVMA Board of Directors. The CVMA board responded that because there was limited information about this new professional in addition to unresolved questions, further analysis of the issue was needed. In summer 2022, Rep. Karen McCormick formed a stakeholder working group so that all stakeholders had an opportunity to weigh in and understand the ramifications of creating a mid-level practitioner in Colorado.
CVMA thanks Rep. McCormick for her leadership and comprehensive examination of the access to care issue, and appreciates the interest and commitment of all who participated in the highly informative stakeholder working group over several months. CVMA has carefully considered the expert presentations and discussions of the working group to form a position on this issue.
CVMA supports increased utilization and education of veterinary technicians
CVMA supports the following recommendations as alternative solutions to access to care issues in veterinary medicine.
- Statutory solutions and/or education to promote optimal utilization of veterinary technicians: CVMA strongly supports both immediate statutory solutions and near-term educational programs that will elevate the role of veterinary technicians, a group of veterinary professionals that is currently underutilized. CVMA supports education and policy clarifying what tasks are prime for delegation under levels of supervision by veterinarians to veterinary technicians, and educating and informing veterinarians and veterinary technicians on the efficiency and utilization improvements that can be achieved in veterinary practice by fully utilizing the demonstrated, tested, competence of veterinary technicians.
- Creation of advanced educational programs for registered veterinary technicians: CVMA strongly supports the creation of advanced educational programs for registered veterinary technicians that will result in:
- Robust utilization of RVTs in clinical settings
- Expedite RVTs achieving their Veterinary Technician Specialist designation
- Improve engagement and retention of RVTs in the veterinary profession
- Help ensure that veterinary technicians are paid a living wage that reflects the high value of their work
Key barriers to the mid-level veterinary practitioner
CVMA cannot support the proposal to create a new profession because of the numerous, significant barriers to public health and productivity that the professional would face and/or create. Therefore, CVMA cannot support the educational and financial investment required to develop, launch, and operate a degree program for such a new profession. Colorado deserves a better return on its investment.
There are numerous barriers to the successful integration and utilization of this brand-new veterinary professional.
- FDA allows only licensed veterinarians to prescribe. This means that unlike human medicine, a mid-level professional would be unable to prescribe independently.
- USDA accreditation is available only to licensed veterinarians. This means that according to federal requirements, USDA-required tests, CVI health certificates, and veterinary feed directives can only be performed by licensed veterinarians.
- Only licensed veterinarians can legally perform four essential tasks: diagnose, initiate treatment, prescribe, and perform surgery. This means that the proposed mid-level practitioner would not be able to perform these tasks in Colorado and most of the U.S. without changes to individual state laws; any professional performing these tasks would need to do so under a veterinarian’s liability insurance.
- Procedures and systems for determining professional competence to practice do not exist, and will take years to create. This means that owners, employers, and colleagues cannot be assured of a mid-level practitioner’s competence to practice.
- Mid-level professionals will demand time, training and mentoring from veterinarians, as well as support from other veterinary personnel. This means that any efficiency improvements or increases in capacity will not be immediate.
- The projected salary for mid-level practitioners does not fit the current reality. In 2022, the AVMA reported that only 43% of all 2021 veterinary graduates earned $80,000 per year or more; it is not clear why it is assumed that the mid-level practitioner would earn $80,000 per year.
CVMA supports existing law
CVMA endorses and supports existing Colorado law that clearly designates diagnosing, prognosing, developing treatment plans, performing surgery, and prescribing drugs for animals as the work of veterinarians. CVMA believes that these veterinary medical tasks require both the expertise and accountability to the public by veterinarians who have met legal standards by completion of an accredited programs and demonstrated their competence through successful passage of a nationally-recognized examination.
In conclusion, CVMA does not support the creation of a mid-level practitioner in Colorado. There is a better way forward: CVMA encourages increased utilization and education of existing veterinary technicians as a more robust and straightforward solution to veterinary issues in Colorado.