The Modern Equine Vet
March 2024
Vol 14 Issue 3 2024
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Practice Managment

4th Veterinary Wellbeing Study Shows Progress Made in Improving Emotional Health

Veterinary professionals are taking a more proactive approach to ensure their well-being, according to the latest Veterinary Wellbeing Study by Merck Animal Health and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

The goal of the 4th Veterinary Wellbeing Study was to identify and explore the state of veterinary professionals’ mental health and well-being, as well as increase awareness to the challenges veterinarians and support teams face.

This year, the study expanded its scope to examine the mental health and well-being of veterinary team members, including veterinary technicians and office managers, receiving nearly 5 times more responses from these positions than the 2021 survey.

The online study was conducted in September and October 2023 by Brakke Consulting, among a nationally representative sample of 4,636 U.S. veterinarians, both practitioners and non-practitioners. Data were weighted based on age, gender and region. For the sample, the maximum margin of error was +/- 1.4% at 95% confidence level.

To achieve a comprehensive study of veterinary team members, Brakke collaborated with the North American Veterinary Technician Association, the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association and others to sample technicians, assistants, hospital practice managers, reception/client service representatives and other members of a veterinary clinic’s team. A total of 2,271 completed questionnaires were returned.

Almost three-quarters of veterinary professionals expressed personal satisfaction with their careers, but there are still factors that concern them, including high exhaustion, work-life balance and shortage of veterinarians, all of which can contribute to burnout. Results indicate that more veterinarians who needed mental health support received outpatient treatment and counseling for mental health challenges in 2023.

Moreover, there has been a substantial increase in clinics supporting their team’s mental health and emotional well-being, with results showing that 38% of clinics now offer an employee-assistance program as opposed to 31% in 2021 and 27% in 2019.

When it comes to clinic culture, most practicing veterinarians agree there is a high degree of trust within their organization, their input is valued, there is sufficient time for each appointment to provide high-quality patient care, and there is candid and open communication among team members, which all contribute to a positive work environment. However, clinics still can make improvements by openly discussing well-being and mental health in team meetings, with only 36% of veterinary teams finding that this happens somewhat or to a great extent.

Pride and Satisfaction in the Profession
While veterinarians and support teams—particularly those early in their career—experience stress and burnout, there are many aspects of the job they enjoy, including those related to helping animals. Most veterinarians (98%) and veterinary team members (92%) noted they are invested in their work and take pride in doing a good job. More than 80% also believe the work they do makes a positive contribution on other people’s lives.

“We are committed to bringing critical awareness to the challenges that veterinary professionals face and to ensure they have the appropriate tools and resources to help support mental health and well-being,” said Rena Carlson, DVM, AVMA president. “We understand that to sustain the health of animals, we need to ensure the well-being of their caretakers.”

These surveys, which have been done every 2 years since 2017, have inspired key initiatives such as MentorVet, which creates evidence-based programming to empower people to thrive within veterinary medicine, helps facilitate guidance and support for veterinary professionals and plays a crucial role in fostering a supportive environment within the industry.

To date, more than 350 veterinary professionals have been supported with full scholarships awarded by Merck to participate in MentorVet’s programming (MentorVet Tech and MentorVet Leap), helping to bridge the gap when it comes to the well-being of veterinary professionals.

In addition, Merck is an educational partner for MentorVet Connect, a collaboration between the AVMA and MentorVet that brings a structured evidence-based mentor program to newly graduated AVMA members free, beginning with the classes of 2018-2023. MeV

For more survey information, check out this month’s VetStats on page 17. For information about MentorVet: see https://www.mentorvet.net/ourteam