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Leading the veterinary team to better well-being

Atlantic City

Dr Carney shares her tips for organizational-level wellness for the veterinary team during the Fetch Coastal conference

Guitafotostudio / stock.adobe.com

Guitafotostudio / stock.adobe.com

Well-being is often left to the individual to figure out and navigate what works for them personally, however organizational or team wellness should not be ignored. Just like each individual needs to find a wellness path that works best for them, Katelyn R. Carney, DVM, DACVIM (LAIM), suggested that team wellness should be constructed based on feedback from employees. Carney said that this feedback can come directly, in an open conversation, or anonymously with a web-based survey.

“The organizational aspects of well-being are the structure and culture of the practice,” Carney said at the Fetch dvm360 conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey.1 She also explained how individual, interpersonal, and environmental aspects can impact well-being overall. Dr Carney is currently completing a MA Ed degree with a trauma and resilience in educational environments concentration. Her professional interests include the science of learning, the science of well-being, project management, and career development. She is a certified Eight Active Ingredients of Tai Chi instructor under Peter Wayne, PhD, author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi.

“So I think of this as a practice metric. Just as we evaluate our clients' experience as a practice metric (many practices evaluate how their clients are satisfied on all the gradations), this is also important for our employees. And that means the employee experience is something we're going to be reassessing, hopefully.” Carney explained that when asking for feedback it’s important to focus on both negatives and positives. “Where are the places where you, as the employee, are feeling the strain at work? And also, this is a big thing for me: When do you feel like you're thriving? What does your day look like when you have a moment [to say] ‘I'm so glad to be in this profession today.’ What are those moments like? What do you think led up to that? Both sides of the spectrum are important.”

When you get that feedback from your team, Carney reminds veterinary leaders to keep in mind that they might vary significantly since everyone may have different needs. She said, “One size does not fit all. So when you ask, ‘what do you need?’ You may be surprised at the answer.”

However, studies show that a lack of self-efficacy can often lead to burnout2,3 and it is recommended to implement strategies that prevent burnout and improve self-efficacy to enhance overall job satisfaction in the medical field.3 Carney gave an example of how a lack of self-efficacy can appear at work: “Basically, people believe that they don't have control over their own destiny, typically at work. So, that can be when very rigid scheduling systems are imposed. It can be the application of really rigid practice guidelines…all of those are things that, over time are like the stone in your shoe—where maybe on any one day you can grit your teeth and it's fine, but every day or multiple times a day, these are the things that just kind of wear us out.”

Solutions found through leadership

“Leadership is not just something that people with the title do. Leadership is something that we all do on the team,” Carney reminded attendees. With this frame of mind, anyone on the veterinary team can exemplify leadership. Carney also mentioned that when your leader values their vacation time or sick days, it helps the rest of the team feel okay with taking that time off, too. This can help remove any guilt veterinary professionals may feel when they need time off to reset and recharge.

Psychological safety

Carney stated that one way to use leadership as a path to better team well-being is to be responsive to requests and asks for help. “When I need something, I trust that my leader will do that.” Trust in your leader can significantly improve that interpersonal relationship with them.1 If the leaders have allowed the veterinary team to feel okay taking risks, expressing ideas and concerns, asking questions, and making mistakes—all without fear of negative consequences, then they feel psychologically safe at work. Feeling secure at work to express concerns and make mistakes can help improve team wellness by allowing the workplace to be a safe place rather than only a stressful environment.


  1. Carney K. Caring for the Caregivers: Organizational‐Level Interventions to Promote Wellbeing. Presented at: Fetch dvm360 conference; Atlantic City, New Jersey; October 9-11, 2023.
  2. Bernales-Turpo D, Quispe-Velasquez R, Flores-Ticona D, et al. Burnout, Professional Self-Efficacy, and Life Satisfaction as Predictors of Job Performance in Health Care Workers: The Mediating Role of Work Engagement. J Prim Care Community Health. 2022;13:21501319221101845. doi:10.1177/21501319221101845
  3. Lim S, Song Y, Nam Y, Lee Y, Kim D. Moderating Effect of Burnout on the Relationship between Self-Efficacy and Job Performance among Psychiatric Nurses for COVID-19 in National Hospitals. Medicina (Kaunas). 2022;58(2):171. Published 2022 Jan 24. doi:10.3390/medicina58020171
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