Every industry has its share of challenges, but the veterinary industry is considered one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing—and veterinary professionals are currently facing an unprecedented mental health crisis. Veterinary professionals are often presumed to spend their days playing with cute puppies and kittens, but there’s another side that people don’t see behind closed doors. Veterinary professionals face stress, pressure, and compassion fatigue daily, but this is usually not recognized because they tend to put on a smile and focus on providing the highest quality care to their patients.
To our Pioneer Animal Hospital team, veterinary medicine is not a profession—it’s a life’s calling. But that doesn’t mean the job is always easy, and sometimes our own mental health suffers, because we care so deeply about our pet patients. They are the reason we get out of bed in the morning, and the reason why we strive every day to uphold our promise to always care for them as best we possibly can. However, we are more than veterinary professionals—we are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends, and neighbors. In this blog post, we are speaking up about a heavy topic we don’t often discuss, because we need support from you—our clients, pet owners, and advocates— as we care for your beloved pets.
The veterinary mental health crisis
Most veterinary professionals dreamed of working in this field since they were children who brought home stray animals and played “veterinarian” with stuffed animals. But the reality now is not a game—we love what we do, despite the work being highly stressful, and physically and emotionally demanding.
Burnout is now common in the veterinary profession and has caused U.S.-wide staff shortages, yet the demand for veterinary care continues to increase, and veterinary hospitals are taking on the extra load while short-staffed, stretching their teams far too thin. Record-high caseloads, exorbitant veterinary school debt, the struggle for work-life balance, and the heavy emotional toll of work have increased veterinary professionals’ mental health issues and put them at high risk of suicide. One study published in 2019 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association revealed:
- Female veterinarians were 2.4 times more likely as the general U.S. population to commit suicide
- Male veterinarians were 1.6 times more likely
- Female veterinary technicians were 2.3 times more likely
- Male veterinary technicians were five times more likely
These sobering statistics are a reminder that our veterinary professionals desperately need community support—which is where you come in. We are grateful for all our Pioneer Animal Hospital clients, and we hope you realize how much your patience, kindness, and gratitude mean. You—our clients, who regularly interact directly with our veterinary staff—have the power to build us up, or tear us down. We understand you are frustrated when you have to wait for an appointment or your veterinarian is running late, but we can assure you we are always doing our absolute best given our available staff and resources, and we greatly appreciate your empathy and understanding.
Pet-owner support for veterinary mental health
When pet owners learn about the veterinary professional mental health crisis, they often want to help our team. Here are a few simple gestures that always go a long way in showing your support and appreciation:
- Write a thank-you note — In our fast-paced digital world, a handwritten thank-you note is even more meaningful, and a note that acknowledges a staff member or our entire team for keeping your pet healthy is easy and special. On especially difficult days, a thank-you note from a client can be a much-needed mood boost and a reminder that what we do makes a difference.
- Give an outstanding review — For practices to be successful, client satisfaction must be high, and singing your veterinarian’s praises in an online review—or by word of mouth—provides the right feedback to potential new clients who are deciding on veterinary care for their pet.
- Show up on time — Veterinary professionals’ schedules are jam-packed, and we have to stick to our tight schedule to help as many pets as possible. We can be most efficient if you can possibly arrive a little early for your pet’s appointment, and by remembering to bring any requested documentation or samples.
- Be understanding and empathetic — As much as we try to stick to our schedule, emergencies happen often in the veterinary world, and that sometimes means our staff run late for a scheduled appointment. We value your time and always do our best not to keep you waiting, but when you do have to wait, remember—your pet could some day be rushed in for emergency care, and you would be grateful.
- Ask your veterinarian how they are doing — Your pet’s care is your top priority—and ours—but remembering that your veterinarian is a regular person beneath that lab coat, and showing genuine interest, can make their day. They probably won’t reveal the hardships they are facing, but knowing that others care will mean a lot.
At Pioneer Animal Hospital, we promise our clients that we will do our best, every time, because you and your pet deserve no less. We are grateful we are living our dream of many years ago and caring for pets and their owners, and we sincerely appreciate your support and understanding. Contact us whenever you need to schedule an appointment for your pet. In the meantime, we thank you for your loyalty, kindness, and respect.