Is It Time to Update Fees? This question stared up at me from the cover of the latest issue of Veterinary Practice News. A timely question. Seeing as our supplier costs (drugs, products, gauze sponges and more) are rising roof-wards, I can’t help thinking our current moratorium on price hikes — thanks in part to the never-ending recession — can’t possibly last for too much longer.
So what does that mean for you?
Now, I’m not a practice owner. But I know something about how veterinary practices are run. And my income (roughly average for veterinarians in terms of annual compensation but admittedly higher on a per-hour basis) is nothing to complain about — that is, unless I compare my income to my sister professionals’ in the human medical field (which I try not to do, seeing as I’m a big believer that the root of all evil comes from comparison).
Nonetheless, it is true that my fellow veterinarians in the younger set are graduating with more loans than I did. I took out $70K and I have only about $20K to go (I refinanced for a song of a rate eight years ago, which is when I went from paying $800 a month to a more comfortable $300). Meanwhile, young vets are taking out loans to the tune of $100- $120K on average. Which means they graduate from school paying $1,000 to $1,500 a month, depending on their interest rate.
Imagine paying that much when your starting salary only brings you about $3,000 after taxes. It doesn’t leave you much to pay for a car, gas, rent, food, electricity and your cell phone bill. While working 50-60 hour weeks.
OK, so enough of that. No one should cry for us. I’m just saying that it’s not as easy as you might think for some veterinarians out there … and the vet staff, of course. And that in general, the only practicing veterinarians making more than $120-150K are the specialists and the practice owners.
So when prices are on the squeeze from our suppliers, guess who loses out bigger than most? Yep, the associate veterinarians and staff. Because we make up the biggest percentage of the costs, and because we’re also the most malleable, price-wise.
But that can only last for so long. Because veterinarians end up getting mobile when they can’t make ends meet, moving to less expensive verdant pastures, cost of living-wise, and leaving many practice owners in the lurch.
Which is why higher prices are finally coming to a veterinary hospital near you. And why I have to ask … given that higher supplier costs, with their attendant fuel prices and younger veterinarians — with their economic pressures — are undeniably the root cause, where do you lay the blame?
Dr. Patty Khuly