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.”
agrees: “We can only do so much in a set day and need to set boundaries.”
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.)
The occasional binge of Netflix.
your current stressors and coping mechanisms? Tell us by emailing
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.
Mairi brings her dog, Nox, to Trupanion every day, where she works on the marketing team and Nox supervises in between play time. She's a fan of superhero movies and must go into every bookstore that crosses her path. In her free time you can probably catch her reading, hanging out with Nox, planning her next trip, or binging a new show.