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Improving Health & Well-Being in the Veterinary Profession

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Veterinarians today face immense pressure to provide high standards of care while maintaining an adequate work–life balance. About 20% of veterinarians are looking to work fewer hours, and the supply:demand ratio for veterinarians appears to be smaller than that of the overall US job market.1 The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) highlights the ratio of applicants to total jobs available per state, with only 8 states having >1 applicant per available job.1 Thus, providing veterinary teams with the means to practice high-quality veterinary care while also promoting their health and well-being can help attract top talent.

The Importance of Focusing on Health & Well-Being

The veterinary profession is changing. Family and social structures are vastly different than they once were.2,3 With technology, internet, and social media on the rise, access to options and information has grown exponentially for pet owners, leading to changes in expectations for health, communication, and resources. Personal values, financial needs, and the practice of veterinary medicine itself also differ greatly for veterinary professionals. The veterinary industry has historically struggled with emotional and mental health4; suicide is now a major concern in the profession, and efforts to address this are underway.

What has worked for veterinary practices in the past may not work in the future with the changing needs of veterinarians and staff. Practices that seek to focus on the physical, mental, and financial health of its employees demonstrate a commitment to help maintain the work–life balance that is needed in the veterinary community.

How Are Veterinary Practices Responding?

Practices committed to the health and well-being of their people are seeking a multifactorial approach to address these issues. In terms of physical health, offering health insurance for staff is an important aspect to note. Addressing mental health issues is also critical in today’s veterinary profession. Banfield Pet Hospital has created ASK (ie, Assess, Support, Know), a suicide prevention training program designed specifically for veterinary professionals that educates on how to recognize and manage emotional distress in themselves and others. Understanding that the veterinary industry is in crisis, Banfield has helped to better the health and well-being of their employees by closing schedules at all Banfield hospitals nationwide for 2 hours to facilitate interactive mental health and well-being training for their associates; Banfield has also made ASK available as a free resource for all veterinary professionals and veterinary school students.

From a financial health perspective, providing management and support for student debt relief is crucial for veterinarians, as veterinary student debt loads have been correlated with burnout, secondary traumatic stress, and psychological distress.6,7 Banfield has also introduced a veterinary student debt relief program, which has allowed for millions in educational debt refinancing for their associates and helping to pay off their student loans. Providing childcare discounts and paid time-off can also encourage a better work–life balance. Some practices are also offering employee assistance programs that can help support individuals through potential life challenges.

Today’s Veterinary Job Seekers

In this competitive employment environment, veterinarians may not need to settle for practices that do not consider the mental, physical, and financial health of veterinarians and their teams. Veterinarians can choose employers who provide these services and help ease the pressure on veterinary professionals to better improve care for themselves, enabling them to focus on providing high-quality care to their patients.

References

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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