Mental health and self-care in our veterinary nursing community [Photograph]. (n.d.). Vet Times.
Mental health and self-care in our veterinary nursing community [Photograph]. (n.d.). Vet Times.

Vying for Our Vets

Bringing Awareness to the Mental and Emotional Health among Veterinarians

June 4, 2021

The veterinary industry experiences one of the highest staff turnover rates, with percentages between 30-50%. 

Veterinarians are scheduled to work 50 hours or more a week completing examinations of pets, treating wounds and illnesses, handling and restraining animals, performing surgery and euthanasia, acting as a counselor for pet owners, and much more. 

Due to such tasks, mental health in the veterinary profession has become a continuously growing problem. Although the responsibility of caring for animals is a rewarding occupation, veterinarians and other vet staff members are mentally and physically impacted by aspects of their field. The profession requires attentiveness and care, which contributes to compassion fatigue, burnout, and emotional exhaustion. This condition is referred to as the “cost of caring.” The immense task of caring for others can come at the expense of caring for oneself. 

Research has found that almost every year, more veterinarians are leaving the industry than are coming in, contributing to a 5% attrition rate. Veterinarian’s daily responsibilities lead to their risk of experiencing burnout, which decreases workers’ interest in pursuing professional development. This is discouraging because self-growth is an essential part of life, as it provides the chance to improve, gain insight, and use the expertise one has learned to the greatest potential, leading to self-fulfillment. Difficulty in finding the time to achieve goals for one’s personal and work life may cause increased stress, which can lead to feelings of self-doubt, hopelessness, or irritability.

In addition, client satisfaction plays an important role in the veterinary profession. In certain circumstances, veterinarians may find themselves dealing with clients who are upset and non-understanding. Or, conversely, they may find themselves feeling pressured to continue providing a high quality of care. An interviewed veterinarian, Dr. Halvin, mentioned that when upset clients make false accusations or blame veterinarians like herself, she is more likely to feel anxiety and pressure.  

There has also been growing concern surrounding veterinarian’s experience of depression and how the disorder increases fatigue, due to how a veterinarian may empathize and endure any possible pain that an animal or pet owner may undergo. Fatigue, excessive workloads, and uncontrollable work schedules have all factored into veterinarians, vet technicians, and vet assistants receiving insufficient sleep. The harms of insufficient sleep among workers in the veterinary profession are currently under research to determine its effects on the safety of the workplace. Certain tasks such as restraining or lifting up heavy animals require a high level of focus and concentration. A study found that workers who received less than five hours of sleep were three times more likely to be injured on the job than workers who receive seven or more hours of sleep. 

Furthermore, bringing awareness to the mental health and wellbeing of veterinarians is important to help build better relationships between veterinarians, human clients, and their pets. Across the world, there are many people who are pet owners and want to care for animals, and informing people of the daily responsibilities and challenges of the veterinary field is something that will help develop this relationship. Partnerships, empathy, and understanding between pet owners and veterinarians will be beneficial towards the mental health of all, including the wellbeing of the animal. 

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