Although every job has its share of stressors that take a toll on mental health and wellbeing, the veterinary industry is faced with a great deal of challenges. From euthanizing beloved companions, to working long hours while short-staffed, veterinary professionals tackle multiple hurdles in their everyday work lives that can carry over into their personal lives. Many of these issues came to light during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the entire world was suffering from stress, anxiety, and fear, sometimes leading to short tempers and irrational behavior.
As we emerge on the other side of these mental struggles, our Driftwood Animal Hospital team wants to share more about the difficulties facing veterinary professionals and how they affect our mental health and happiness. Read on to learn how you can help support our team by showing appreciation for the high-quality care we strive to provide pets in our community.
Factors affecting veterinary professional mental health
While a multitude of issues impact veterinary professionals, a few common themes that can negatively affect mental health include:
- Emotional highs and lows, often experienced several times a day
- Long work hours
- Poor work-life balance
- Staffing shortages
- Guilt about using paid time off
- Massive student loan debt
- Overbooked appointment schedules
- Cyber bullying
- Disgruntled clients
These factors that detract from mental health have culminated in an increased suicide risk for veterinary professionals. A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association revealed that veterinary professionals are up to five times more likely to die by suicide than the general population, with male veterinary technicians suffering the highest risk. In reaction to these heartbreaking realities, an impressive movement focusing on improving mental health is gathering momentum, but more immediate action is needed.
How pet owners can support their veterinary team’s mental health
Although veterinary medicine focuses on pet care, pet owners play a large role in our day-to-day interactions. And while many people mistakenly think we spend our time playing with puppies and kittens, we spend a large amount of time educating clients, discussing diagnoses and treatment plans, reviewing financing options, and recommending lifestyle changes to make pets happier and healthier.
Many pet owners are aware of the struggles veterinary professionals face, and they want to know how they can help. Since much of our time is spent in communication with pet owners, here are a few ways you can support our team’s mental health:
- Share constructive feedback — We value clients’ feedback about how we can provide better services, but abusive language and online—or in-person—bullying is never helpful. Choose what you say online carefully, as stories can be blown out of proportion by keyboard warriors, causing substantial, potentially life-threatening, consequences.
- Say “Thank you” — When we do something great, we want to hear it! Expressing your thanks can go a long way toward boosting our moods, and a handwritten note of appreciation is a treasure that can be read and reread as a pick-me-up at the end of a rough day.
- Understand we are running a business — Money has long been a taboo topic in the veterinary industry, but that is changing. By being proactive and planning for the cost of pet care, you can prepare for routine and unexpected care costs, allowing us to create a reasonable treatment plan for your pet. Please understand that we are not in veterinary medicine to become rich, but we need to make enough to cover the expenses of running a veterinary hospital so we can help more pets.
- Respect our schedule — Everyone’s time is valuable. We ask that you please respect our tightly packed schedule by showing up on time for your appointment, or by calling to cancel or reschedule if you cannot make it. We often have a long waiting list of pets who need to be seen and would appreciate your appointment slot. Also, come prepared for your pet’s appointment by bringing any paperwork, medical records, or samples we have asked for so we can care for your pet as efficiently as possible.
- Show empathy to other pet owners — Your pet’s health is important to us. However, there are times when an emergency situation must take priority. If we are handling an emergency, please be patient and thankful that your pet is not in their place. Also, please restrain your pet in our hospital. Many pets become stressed in unfamiliar places, and may become more anxious when confronted with an overly friendly dog. Keep emotions calm by maintaining an appropriate distance from other pets and their owners.
At Driftwood Animal Hospital, rest assured that our passion for pet care is as strong as ever. However, we may need a little extra support from time to time to maintain our mental wellbeing. As always, contact our team for all your pet’s veterinary care needs.