Study captures pandemic’s impact on veterinary profession

A study found that the percentage of veterinarians with severe mental distress increased to 9.7% in Fall 2021 compared to 6.4% in Fall 2019, and regression analysis suggests this change is an impact of COVID-19 -Pandemic was.

On January 18, at the 2022 Veterinary Meeting & Expo in Orlando, Florida, Merck Animal Health released results from its third wellbeing study, conducted by Brakke Consulting Inc. in collaboration with the AVMA, to examine human wellbeing and mental health US vets. The Merck study has been conducted every two years since 2017. For the first time, the study included responses from veterinarians and other support staff.

“The past two years have been extremely challenging for veterinarians and their dedicated staff, and we are very grateful to everyone who contributed to this important study, which gives us a deeper insight into the experiences of our colleagues,” said Dr. José Arce, AVMA President, in an announcement. “AVMA is committed to creating meaningful resources to protect wellbeing and this new research will further inform and support our important ongoing work in this critical area. We want our members to know that the AVMA is listening and is there to support them, whether that be through resources to help veterinarians manage their practices in this new environment, such as:

Merck Animal Health made a US$100,000 donation to support AVMA wellbeing resources, as the company did in connection with the 2017 and 2019 studies.

“We are excited to be collaborating with Merck Animal Health on this important work at a time of unprecedented challenges for healthcare professionals,” said Jen Brandt, PhD, AVMA director of member wellbeing and diversity initiatives, in the announcement. “In light of this critical need, the AVMA continues to develop and prioritize resources dedicated to supporting veterinarian and staff wellbeing, including our new ‘Train-the-Trainer’ workshop, which empowers veterinary professionals to become trainers and valuable strategies for advancement of well-being at work; as well as a workplace wellbeing certificate program, assessment tools, podcasts, webinars, self-care strategies, and how and where to get help.”

In the 2021 Wellbeing Study, veterinarians were asked to rate a list of issues as critically or moderately important. The top 5 were as follows: veterinarian and staff stress levels, 92%; Lack of qualified support staff, 91%; high educational debt, 88%; the suicide rate among veterinarians 88%; and lack of veterinarians, 82%.

Regarding the impact of the pandemic, 81% of staff and 67% of veterinarians said their practice was understaffed at times. Additionally, 63% of staff and 61% of veterinarians said their jobs increased their exposure to COVID-19, and 51% of staff and 46% of veterinarians said they worked longer hours than usual.

The proportion of employees with severe mental stress was 18.1% compared to 9.7% of veterinarians. Half of the employees surveyed and 31% of the veterinarians suffered from high levels of burnout.

Only a third of stressed vets had a healthy way of dealing with stress compared to 81% of non-stressed vets. Serious psychological distress was more common among veterinarians who worked excessive hours. Vets who did not report stress spent more time on healthy activities outside of work, such as B. socializing with family and friends. Severe psychological distress was lower in veterinarians with financial planners.

The results of the study suggest that employers should recognize that there is low well-being and psychological distress at work and encourage team members to address these issues. offer psychiatric health insurance, an employee assistance program, or both; and create a working atmosphere that promotes well-being and mental health. Some elements of a healthy work environment are a strong sense of belonging to a team, a high level of trust in the organization, honest and open communication between team members, and sufficient time to provide quality patient care.

dr Christine Royal, Associate Vice President of Merck Animal Health for Professional Services for Pets and Equines in the United States, said in the announcement, “Today, more than ever, it is clear that veterinarians and their staff play an integral role in the care of the animals we care for love and nurture the human-animal bond. And at Merck Animal Health, we have unconditional respect for veterinarians and their commitment, especially in these unconventional times.”

She continued, “We are committed to protecting the health and welfare of veterinarians and ensuring we are building a robust and engaged profession for the future, with opportunities such as scholarship funding, wellbeing webinars, networking opportunities and more. “

The third Merck Wellbeing Study was conducted by Brakke in September and October 2021 among a nationally representative sample of 2,495 US veterinarians, both practicing and non-practicing. In the 2021 study, practitioners surveyed were asked to forward a special link to full-time staff in all practice roles, and staff returned a total of 448 completed questionnaires.