DENVER (KDVR) — Veterinary care spending has increased over the last several years, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. However, like many industries, staffing is not keeping up with the need and is prompting a labor shortage.

Banfield Pet Hospital launched the NextVet program last year on the heels of research from Mars Veterinary Health which found that the industry is facing a chronic talent shortage, and the lack of diverse veterinary professionals entering the industry is playing a critical role.

The hospital said a lot of kids say they want to be a vet when they grow up but then they switch gears when it comes to choosing a career.

Banfield Pet Hospital is now offering part-time summer internships that provide paid work experience and first-hand insight into the veterinary profession.

The six to 10-week program features flexible start and end dates tailored to individual school schedules and will provide an immersive hands-on look into veterinary medicine with support from local doctors, market leaders, and the chance to connect with Banfield senior executives. 

The NextVet program allows students 16 and up to shadow a client service representative, veterinarian, veterinary technician, and veterinary assistant to learn all aspects of the industry.

They have 30 open intern spots at all their locations including the two in Denver.

They have had a few success stories from last year’s students who have participated and gone on to work at Banfield in some capacity. They said their ultimate goal is to combat the labor shortage and make the workforce more diverse in the process.

“The point of this program is to allow an opportunity for people to foster that growth specifically as it relates to diversity issues. The veterinary industry is 90% Caucasian, which is not serving all of the communities we need to serve, and it gives us a problem whenever it comes to access. So, we want to give students an opportunity to learn more about the veterinary industry, particularly those underserved communities so that they have an opportunity to get involved and understand that this is a viable career option and it’s one that they can pursue on their own,” said Austin Graham, chief of staff at Banfield Pet Hospital.

Their goal is to find someone who likes animals, likes people and shows an interest in the industry. Interns will need transportation to a metro area vet clinic.

Students who are 16 and up can apply online from now until the end of February.  

While talking to the chief of staff at Banfield, he said that the shortage has been going on since before COVID, ​​and the pandemic only made it worse. The industry, nationwide, is in need of 14,000 associates which translates to 75 million pets not having access to a veterinarian by 2030.

At Banfield, they try not to turn patients away but find a suitable alternative instead.

“They may not have a direct opportunity in an exam room with a veterinarian, but they do have an opportunity to talk to a veterinary professional and see them face to face at least in the lobby. So, we have a lot of different ways that we do that and a lot of different modes of care. We’ve been leveraging our veterinary technicians quite often here at Banfield. We do a lot of what’s called CVT, or certified veterinary technician appointments, that allow our doctors to see more caseloads and allows them to deliver the care that needs to be seen in our communities,” said Graham.

Before this year, Colorado did not have title protections for veterinary technicians, so anyone practicing as a veterinary technician must be registered by the Colorado State Board of veterinary medicine by Jan. 1, 2024.