Concern about well-being among veterinary professions prompted the AVMA to convene a two-day Wellness Roundtable in March 2016, bringing together veterinary stakeholder groups and mental health professionals to explore the major causes of
wellness issues among veterinarians, some of the barriers to accessing appropriate professional support, and to lay out recommendations for enhancing wellness in all work environments in veterinary medicine.
The initial results will be presented at the 2016 AVMA conference in San Antonio. Concurrently, recent classes of AVMA Future Leaders have developed a comprehensive website on veterinary wellness and are drafting recommendations for wellness across the range of veterinary workplaces. SAVMA has conducted a survey on student wellness issues that collected data from veterinary colleges internationally.
Recent research on veterinary wellness has found:
- Significantly elevated levels of depression and anxiety across the four years of veterinary school, with the highest scores in the second and third years (Siqueira, Drake et al, 2012)
- 7% of males and 11% of females in the profession have a serious mental illness/psychiatric disorder and/or feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness since graduation from veterinary school (CDC, 2014).
- The three primary stressors identified by the respondents were the demands of veterinary practice; veterinary practice management responsibilities; and professional mistakes and client complaints (CDC, 2014)
- 14% of males and 19% of females in the veterinary profession have considered suicide since leaving veterinary school. This is three times the U.S. national average (CDC, 2014)
- Veterinarians have a proportional mortality ratio for suicide approximately four times that of the general population and around twice that of other healthcare professions (Bartram, 2010).
These startling findings crystallize the need for us all to renew our commitment to caring for ourselves and others. Self-care has recently been identified as a new “moral imperative” in veterinary medicine, enhancing the well-being of veterinary professionals and patient/client interactions as well as decreasing the rates of medical error, stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue.
“In these most demanding times, we must create strategies to find our way home, and by home I mean a place of restoration, peace, and a feeling of control.”
– Dr. Laura Peycke, Clinical Associate Professor, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine