Mental health has become a common workplace concern, as emotional and mental health are now recognized as being vital to on-the-job efficacy. This acknowledgment is extremely beneficial to veterinary professionals, as our mental health has been suffering, and the necessary COVID-19 pandemic response has challenged us more. Through improved mental health, veterinary professionals can enjoy better emotional wellbeing and physical health, increased productivity, and more meaningful relationships. Read our Wales Animal Clinic team’s explanation on why veterinary professional mental health has been suffering, and how you can help support the profession’s employee wellbeing.
3 common causes of poor mental health in veterinary professionals
Veterinary professional mental health has taken a beating for myriad reasons. The most common causes for these difficulties include:
#1: Financial stress
To work as a professional in the veterinary medicine field, a person must have completed two or more years of college, which can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans. The cost of earning a two-year veterinary technician degree is relatively conservative compared with the eight years’ education required to become a doctor of veterinary medicine, and the salary remains proportional to debt across the various occupations. Because of this low pay compared to debt load, no matter a person’s veterinary career path—whether technician or veterinarian—each struggles to repay their student loans.
Low pay combined with a heavy debt burden means that many veterinary professionals’ financial dreams go unfulfilled. Whether the goal is something as modest as a weekend getaway, or as lofty as practice ownership, having the extra resources to put away to achieve specific dreams can be extremely challenging.
#2: Staffing shortages
Mars Veterinary Health, an organization dedicated to advancing veterinary professionals’ and pets’ wellbeing, calculates that—to meet pets’ projected health care needs—more than 41,000 veterinarians must enter companion animal practice during the next 10 years. With roughly 2,000 veterinarians retiring each year and an average of 2,500 new veterinarians entering the workforce, the profession will have an estimated shortage of 15,000 veterinarians by the year 2030.
Support staff shortages are also severe, as not nearly enough credentialed veterinary technicians (i.e., vet techs) enter the workforce each year to support veterinarians adequately. Credentialed vet techs can perform every service a veterinarian can, except diagnosing, prescribing medications, performing surgery, or giving a prognosis. With their extensive skill set, vet techs help alleviate veterinarians’ overwhelming workload, but too few formally trained technicians stay in the field.
#3: Empathetic and perfectionist nature
Veterinary professionals feel emotions deeply and are often perfectionists by nature, which makes them excellent employees for their chosen career path. However, these traits can take a serious toll on their mental health. When pets fail to respond to treatment, or grieving clients take out their anguish on veterinary professionals, these caregivers take these “failures” to heart.
3 ways pet owners can support their veterinary teams’ wellbeing
All caregiving comes with stress and heartache. However, you can help support your veterinary team’s wellbeing by doing the following:
#1: Purchase pet insurance
Nothing is more heartbreaking than having to make decisions about a pet’s care based on finances, especially if an owner must choose euthanasia because they cannot afford their pet’s treatment. By purchasing a pet insurance policy as soon as you adopt your four-legged friend, you take money out of their veterinary care equation. In addition, purchasing pet insurance when your pet is young, helps you avoid having to pay for treatment for pre-existing conditions—because you secure the coverage before a health condition develops—and you have that financial backing for any health issues your pet may acquire.
#2: Arrive on time and be prepared for your pet’s appointment
With overbooked schedules and bare-bones staffing, every second counts during your veterinary professionals’ day. If you cannot make your appointment, or are running late, please let us know, so we can plan accordingly. Ideally, arrive on time and be prepared for your pet’s appointment. If we requested that you bring fecal or urine samples from home, or your pet’s vaccination or medical history from another veterinary hospital, please comply, so your time and ours will be used effectively.
#3: Thank your veterinary professional team
Telling us we did a great job when we took excellent care of your pet means a lot. A handwritten note of thanks or a five-star review online can mean the world after a tough day filled with upset clients, scared pets, and poor prognoses.
Supporting mental health across all professions is an important matter—one in which we can all take part. When veterinary professionals and pet owners work as a team—together—we can provide the best care for your furry pal, showing respect for and appreciating the skills, compassion, and knowledge we all bring to the table. Schedule your pet’s veterinary appointment with our Wales Animal Clinic team.