Educating the Veterinary Students of Tomorrow
Stress and mental health in the Veterinary profession
Occupational stress is defined as the ‘adverse reaction employees experience in response to excessive pressures of the workplace (Dawson and Thompson, 2017). For many years, occupational stress has been an important topic in the Veterinary profession. Veterinary surgeons are known to be at a higher suicide risk compared to the general population. Today, lots of Research is being carried out to try to understand why this risk is so high and movements are being made to try and reduce this by protecting and supporting mental health within the profession.
So, why is the job so stressful? Vets are under permanent high demands and pressures from Clients, as well as often working long unsociable hours…Many research studies have been conducted related to the personality of Vets and whether this predisposes them to mental health in the future. Suggestions have been made and these have highlighted the “perfectionism” trait within Vets and Vet students (Crane et al, 2015). People who want to be Vets often want to be perfectionists and have a fear of failing due to striving for success, usually starting from a young age! Could this level of perfectionism and competitiveness make being a Vet sometimes difficult if their standards are not always able to be achieved? Vets in practice are also regularly faced with euthanasia and whilst this is difficult for the Clients involved, this can sometimes be very difficult for the Vet to deal with emotionally. Vets are expected to perform euthanasia and then continue with the rest of their evening consultations for example, there often isn’t the time to reflect due to the high demands of the profession. “Vet futures” conducted a study in 2015 and surveyed 600 Veterinary surgeons and students. They asked them to select what would be there highest priority goal for the future and there were a long list of options available. A fifth of respondents selected “reducing stress” as their priority future goal.
There are many ways in which stress and mental health can be dealt with positively amongst Vets and Vet students. Research suggests that part of this process is admitting that feeling stressed is acceptable and that this job is not always going to run smoothly, Vets are humans too!
It is no longer an elephant in the room and stress and mental health in the Vet profession is becoming a topic which many Vet professionals are now aware of and recognise. Vetlife (www.vetlife.org.uk) is a free company aimed at anyone within the Veterinary community. They offer a 24-7 mental health support and information helpline and are a valuable asset to the Veterinary field today. Stress and mental health are recognised much more today and some practices now have protocols in place to support their team members.
Crane, M. F., Phillips, K. K., Karin, E. 2015. Trait perfectionism strengthens the negative effect of moral stressors occurring in veterinary practice. Australian Vet Journal. 93. 354-360.
Dawson, B. F., Thompson, N. J. 2017. The effect of personality on occupational stress in Vet surgeons. Journal of Veterinary Medicine Education. 44. 72-83.
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