DOWNEY, Calif. — As a veterinarian for 14 years, Miriam Harvey still has a soft spot for pets that come through an exam room. Depending on the condition of the patient, veterinarians often face a wide range of emotions, Harvey said.

“Extreme happiness when we see the puppies and kittens and a sick pet get well and then there are the times where we share the sadness of owners when we see a pet hurting,” Harvey said.

That feeling didn’t change for Harvey during the pandemic. Over 23 million households adopted a four-legged family member, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Harvey said an overload of appointments strained the veterinary industry, which had already been facing a  veterinarian shortage.

“Right now, is about equal to what we were seeing during the pandemic. We have not seen a decrease in caseload at all,” she said.

Now, the pressure is on to get more veterinarians into pet hospitals and clinics. That’s why Banfield Pet Hospital, where Harvey works as the director of veterinary care, created the NexVet internship, summer program where 15 high school students like Alison Trujillo got an inside look into the world of animal care. Like Harvey, Trujillo felt compassion for pets who were hurting. But overall, she said it was a positive experience.

“Definitely. Watching some really cool surgeries and seeing all the different kinds of pets,” she said.

That experience, she said, only solidified her interest in getting into this industry.

“I want to be able to be that person to care for them. And I know it’s going to be a hard journey. But it’s going to be well worth it,” she said.

For Harvey, it’s a good sign that the program is working because she knows all too well how the industry is in need of more veterinary professionals.

“It’s very, very exciting to work with these students who are showing interest and to be able to open this world of possibilities and help them decide what they may want to do for their future,” Harvey said.

The NextVet internship will be available in summer 2023.