This State Rep Is Leading the Charge to Overcome Colorado’s Veterinary Shortage

Veterinary care in Colorado is undergoing a significant transformation, spearheaded by State Representative Karen McCormick.

As a veterinarian for nearly four decades, McCormick’s recent legislative initiatives aim to remedy the state’s pressing veterinarian shortage and enhance animal welfare.

A veterinarian crisis can lead to a greater risk of undiagnosed or late-diagnosed animal illnesses.

Photo: Pexels
Reduced access to veterinarians can lead to a greater risk of undiagnosed or late-diagnosed animal illnesses.

The Veterinary Crisis

Colorado’s veterinary sector faces a daunting challenge: a critical shortage of veterinarians against a backdrop of 2.5 million pets. This deficit has led to 70% of Colorado veterinarians turning away animals weekly due to overburdened practices, CBS News reports.

McCormick noted that the shortage extends beyond animal care to public health and safety. As Kare11 reports, “a lack of veterinary care in rural America could have devastating consequences on the nation’s meat production, not to mention the fact that animals and humans can also share diseases.”

Veterinary professionals may experience higher stress levels due to overwork.

Photo: Pexels
Veterinary professionals may experience higher stress levels due to overwork.

Expanding Telehealth and Tech Roles

To counteract this shortage, McCormick has introduced a bill to enhance veterinary telehealth, establishing clear guidelines for virtual care, reports Denver 7.

Additionally, she proposes expanding the role of veterinary technicians, a move supported by Dr. Nancy Bureau of Left Hand Animal Hospital, who sees this as a win-win for all stakeholders, CBS reports.

Pet owners may find themselves in emotional distress when they are faced with facing limited care options.

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Pet owners may find themselves in emotional distress when they are faced with facing limited care options.

Telehealth in Veterinary Medicine

Telehealth’s role in veterinary medicine has grown, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. McCormick seeks to clarify its use and provide structured education on this evolving modality, according to the Longmont Leader. This legislation is in line with the FDA’s guidelines, which require an initial in-person visit before telehealth services can commence.

Amplifying Veterinary Technician Roles

Another focal point of McCormick’s legislative effort is the elevation of veterinary technicians. By expanding their roles and supervision levels, the bill aims to distribute veterinary care more broadly, recognizing the critical contribution of these professionals to the veterinary team, CBS reports.

Colorado State Representative Karen McCormick is a former veterinarian.

Photo: Colorado General Assembly
Colorado State Representative Karen McCormick is a former veterinarian.

Controversy and Support

While McCormick’s initiatives have garnered support from various quarters, they are not without controversy. The Colorado Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) opposes the creation of a new mid-level veterinary practitioner role, advocating instead for better utilization and education of veterinary technicians.

When veterinary help is scarce, pet owners may face increased healthcare costs.

Photo: Pexels
When veterinary help is scarce, pet owners may face increased healthcare costs.

The CVMA maintains there are six significant barriers to the mid-level veterinary practitioner:

  1. FDA allows only licensed veterinarians to prescribe.
  2. USDA accreditation is available only to licensed veterinarians.
  3. Only licensed veterinarians can legally perform four essential tasks: diagnose, initiate treatment, prescribe, and perform surgery.
  4. Procedures and systems for determining professional competence to practice do not exist, and will take years to create.
  5. Mid-level professionals will demand time, training and mentoring from veterinarians, as well as support from other veterinary personnel.
  6. The projected salary for mid-level practitioners does not fit the current reality.

“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,” reads the CVMA website. “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.”

When clinics are overburdened, there is the potential for reduced quality of care.

Photo: Pexels
The health of your furry friend is important.

Looking Ahead

As these bills progress through the legislative process, their potential to reshape Colorado’s veterinary landscape remains significant. McCormick’s dedication to animal welfare and public health, rooted in her extensive veterinary experience, continues to drive these pivotal changes forward.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, spending time with his daughters, and coffee.
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