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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

Merck Animal Health Veterinarian Wellbeing Study III was conducted to continue to monitor mental health and well being within the veterinary profession in the US and to identify factors associated with high levels of wellbeing and lack of serious psychological distress.

METHODS

A questionnaire consisting of several instruments and questions for measurement of mental health and wellbeing was completed by 2,495 veterinarians and 448 veterinary support staff. Results for veterinarians were weighted to the US AVMA membership.

RESULTS

This study revealed that wellbeing and mental health of some veterinarians declined over the past 2 years, driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme labor shortages. Burnout remained at a high level, but there was no increase in suicide ideation. A new companion survey of veterinary support staff demonstrated that staff scored lower in wellbeing and mental health, and higher in burnout than veterinarians.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Importantly, these studies identified techniques that both individuals and employers may find useful in fostering wellbeing and good mental health. A healthy method for coping with stress and good work-life balance was important, as was engaging a financial adviser for those with student debt or other financial stresses. Employers should create safe environments where employees feel comfortable seeking help, reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues. In addition, employers can provide Employee Assistance Programs and health insurance that covers mental health treatment. Fostering a healthy work culture was also important, one with good communication, teamwork, trust, and adequate time allotted to provide quality patient care.

Open access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

The veterinary profession has a unique responsibility to animals during the final stages of their lives. The veterinarian’s obligations extend to humane endings, involving all species of animals in a range of circumstances including, but not limited to, euthanasia of individually owned animals, euthanasia of animals for research purposes, depopulation of animals during emergencies, and slaughter of animals raised for food. The veterinary profession continues to improve animal welfare through advances in end-of-life decision-making and humane killing techniques, but the psychological impacts on veterinarians have not received the same level of consideration. Building on the influential AVMA Humane Endings Guideline, the AVMA recognizes that support for the mental health of veterinarians engaged in such activities needs to be a priority. This article aims to provide the foundation and rationale for improved preparation and establishment of sustainable mental health resources and to offer recommendations on pragmatic solutions to support and prepare veterinary professionals as leaders impacted by participation in humane endings–related activities. While end-of-life decision-making and implementation may present mental health challenges to veterinarians, it is crucial to recognize that there are stressors specific to each situation and that every individual’s experience is valid. Addressing the mental health issues surrounding the decision-making process and implementation of humane endings activities start with a comprehensive understanding of each activity’s unique context and the veterinarian’s leadership role. Therefore, this article highlights the psychological impact of depopulation and its similarities and exclusive challenges compared with euthanasia and humane slaughter.

Full access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association