Real Talk: Self-Care Tips from Practicing Veterinarians - The Trupanion Blog
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Real Talk: Self-Care Tips from Practicing Veterinarians

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Wellness, self-care, and other buzz words.

Self-care and wellbeing are buzz words we often hear in the news, on social media, and on our favorite television shows. While the fresh focus on taking care of ourselves is great, actual tactics can get lost and become vague and unhelpful.

Of all people, veterinary professionals deserve some real-life self-care tips. Because let’s say it how it is: life in a veterinary practice can be very difficult. In an effort to identify real-world, helpful tips to combat the daily challenges, and in connection with Veterinary Appreciation Day, MightyVet and Not One More Vet (NOMV) teamed up to ask veterinarians what specific moments in their day are the most stressful and what, if anything, they have identified as positive coping strategies. We hope that by sharing this information, veterinary professionals will find a tip or two that will help them in their daily life, leading to a more positive work environment and improved overall wellness.

Time is not our friend—or is it?

The word cloud below shows the most common words used in response to the question: “What moments of your day are the most stressful?” The bigger the word, the more often that word was used in a response.

According to the surveyed veterinarians, time is the greatest source of stress in a veterinary practice.

“I would say lack of time is the number one daily stressor,” said Dr. Nicole. “Trying to update records/bill/make callbacks/order meds/stock and drive to the next appointment, then emergencies start to blow up the schedule.”

Dr. Johnson agrees: “We can only do so much in a set day and need to set boundaries.”

Several others mentioned the time they need for family responsibilities, which can be very hard to juggle as questions and last-minute appointments push the day longer and longer.

“I have to leave work promptly at 5pm to pick up my son,” said Dr. McCarthy Orta. “We all know the world of vetmed is unpredictable, so needing to leave at a certain time is stressful.”

As a working mom, Dr. Halmer also said that making sure she leaves on time to pick up her children is the biggest stress of the day.

Other top stressors from the survey include:

  • Being barraged with questions or being the go-to person for every question.
  • Clients ignoring recommendations or being unable to pay for care.
  • Ensuring team morale.

Do any of these sound familiar?

Use time to your advantage.

Knowing what stresses you out during the day is easy, but finding ways to cope with the stress is much more difficult. In the word cloud below, you can see the top ways veterinarians are coping with their daily stress.

Interestingly, time is the most popular word answering the question, “What coping mechanisms do you use?” This includes making time during the workday to get everything done and taking time outside of work for extracurricular and family activities.

“[I cope using] real time off,” said Dr. Newman, “not the kind where we are getting calls about pets or rx refills.” She also said spending time with family and friends outside of work is helpful to decompress from the workday.

Dr. Rauschendorfer gives herself more time by splitting time with other doctors. Similarly, Dr. Broadley relies on her techs as much as possible to get bloodwork going and everything set up before she enters the room. These tips tie into an overall recommendation to delegate and to not only set boundaries with staff when you need time alone but also empowering staff to make certain decisions.

“I tell [my staff] not to talk to me for ‘x’ number of minutes while I catch up,” said Dr. Heaton. “I am very easily distracted, and sometimes just need that uninterrupted time to get things (especially notes) done.”

When all else fails, turn on the circus music.

Of course, we all have our unique ways of coping. Here are some novel tips from the veterinarians who took our survey:

  • Sometimes, I end up humming circus music, just to set the mood.
  • My coping mechanism is not forgetting to visit the wiz palace. (Leslie Knope would be proud.)
  • …dark humor…
  • The occasional binge of Netflix.

What are your current stressors and coping mechanisms? Tell us by emailing [email protected]!

MightyVet is a non-profit organization dedicated to bridging the gap in veterinary education so veterinary professionals are aware of and prepared for the challenges they face in practice. Join the movement at mightyvet.org.

Not One More Vet is a non-profit focused on veterinary wellbeing. NOMV serves the veterinary community via its peer-to-peer support group, grant program, and by providing educational content and resources to veterinarians across the globe. 

Veterinary Appreciation Day was created by Trupanion in 2015. This special day was founded to recognize veterinary professionals and the wonderful work they do. From the front desk to the exam room, veterinary teams offer compassion, advice, and care for our furry family members.

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