Many veterinary professionals dreamed of working in the veterinary industry when they were kids. Now they have achieved their dream and are finding caring for animals each day greatly fulfilling. However, while caring for animals can provide great joy, its professional challenges (e.g., staffing shortages, long hours) and heartbreaking moments (e.g., euthanasias) have led to a growing mental health crisis in the veterinary profession. Many pet owners are asking how they can support the dedicated veterinary professionals who do so much for their beloved pets. Our team at Alpine Animal Hospital explains what is causing the crisis and how pet owners can help. 

Veterinary professionals and compassion fatigue

Most people join the veterinary profession because they love animals, and want to provide them with the best care possible. They put their heart and soul into caring for your pet, and they never leave a case at the office. They work long hours, often without adequate help, and when they are unable to save an ailing pet, they are affected as deeply as the pet owner. The term “compassion fatigue” describes the physical, emotional, and psychological impact of helping others that can lead to stress or trauma. Veterinary professionals commonly suffer with compassion fatigue. 

Veterinary professionals and burnout

The veterinary profession can be strenuous—long hours, and work that is physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing. The pandemic exacerbated the problem of staffing shortages—these days, veterinary clinics are rarely fully staffed, which means the existing staff have multiple responsibilities other than their own, and their days are jam-packed. The veterinarians themselves also are required to wear many hats—pediatrician, radiologist, surgeon, dentist, administrator, pharmacist, counselor—and many are exhausted and facing burnout.

Veterinary professionals and their ups and downs

You are naturally frustrated when you and your pet are waiting in the exam room because your veterinarian is running late—again.  But, you can be sure they are not taking a break in the staff lounge. They do their best to stay on schedule, but as with human medicine, emergencies happen and some patients and owners require longer appointments, which creates long waiting times and pet owner frustration. Then, the irritated client vents their frustration to the veterinarian, whose last appointment may have been spent consoling a family who had lost their much-loved pet.

How can clients support veterinary professionals?

You can support your pet’s veterinary team with empathy and by showing extra appreciation in little ways, such as:

  • Saying “Thank you” During your pet’s appointment, ensure you acknowledge your veterinarian’s dedication to providing the best care for your pet, and thank them sincerely for their work. You’ll be amazed at how much this small gesture means. 
  • Picking up something for the staff — Have a few extra minutes on your way to your pet’s appointment? Pick up some donuts for the veterinary staff.
  • Writing a thank you note — Want to acknowledge the exceptional care your pet received? Write a heartfelt online review and a personal thank you note. Everyone likes to know their extra efforts are noticed and appreciated, and such random acts are needed and deserved.
  • Cutting some slack — The next time you’re sitting in the waiting room past your appointment time, cut your veterinary team some slack, and be grateful that your pet is not on the emergency room table. 

Few veterinary professionals can imagine doing anything else, despite the challenges and the impact on their health. At Alpine Animal Hospital, your pet is a part of our family, and their wellbeing is our top priority. Your pet is the reason we work every day, and we’re grateful to have them in our lives and to be able to care for them. Let us provide your pet with our gold standard care by scheduling an appointment with our team. And, we will thank you for thanking us.