Sadly, achieving professional wellbeing is a common hurdle within the veterinary profession. Mental health issues such as depression, burnout, compassion fatigue and even suicide have become major problems plaguing the industry.
These difficulties need to be addressed, but a shift in the culture of the profession won’t happen by accident. Concerned veterinarians must be ready to take the first step toward individual and workplace wellness. And why not? The bottom-line benefits of a healthier practice culture include lower turnover, higher productivity, better personal well-being and improved practice reputation.
Seeking to “address well-being by using a positive, proactive approach to help prevent or mitigate mental health issues in veterinary practice teams,” the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) offers a Guide to Veterinary Practice Team Wellbeing.
- AVMA 2017: Burnout Risk Among Veterinarians
- The Eight Dimensions of Wellbeing
AAHA President Mark McConnell, BVMS, MRCVS, advises veterinary teams to review the guide and select the chapters that resonate. “Once your team is on board with creating a workplace where they can thrive, you will soon recognize positive change,” he said. “It won’t be long until you can look back on what you’ve accomplished as a group and realize how much healthier and happier you are.”
The guide, which seeks to “make a difference in team members’ personal and professional lives,” is available for free. Following are the top seven takeaways reported on the AAHA blog.
- Realize that veterinary professionals have a greater predisposition to mental health challenges than the general population. Understanding this will allow you to take precise action to improve your overall well-being. It will also help to create a culture of acceptance within your practice where peers can talk openly about struggles they might be facing.
- Seek to make measurable physical and mental health improvements in your life by incorporating good sleep, diet, exercise and thankfulness habits into your busy schedule. Taking the time to recognize or express gratitude, for example, is a powerful way to override negative emotions such as frustration or sadness.
- Seek to recall the joy and satisfaction that comes from the pets and people you have helped through the years. Even if the day-to-day stresses of the job have diluted your overall enthusiasm, it’s never too late to try and reconnect with the passion that sparked your initial interest in veterinary medicine.
- Look to mitigate the effects of burnout and compassion fatigue you may feel by taking concrete steps to alleviate these burdens. As a team, veterinary practices can combat burnout or passion fatigue by establishing work and personal boundaries, being properly staffed and debriefing after traumatic events.
- All veterinary teams face moral distress and team conflict, but coping skills are vital to practice success. Developing the skills to better address the challenges you face begins with recognizing and understanding causes.
- Since personal well-being significantly impacts career satisfaction, know that workplace culture has an added effect. Making our veterinary practices a workplace of health and happiness allows one and all to pursue a passion for helping pets and families.
- Having a healthy veterinary practice culture is attainable. The essential element in delivering quality patient care and boosting employee happiness is to realize that specific processes and tools are available to help teams solve the puzzle of a healthy working culture.