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Everyone needs proactive strategies for coping in the veterinary industry

Posted in 1. Mental health resources @ Feb 11th 2016 - By Nadine Hamilton, Positive Psych Solutions
Everyone Needs Proactive Strategies Fro Coping In The Veterinary Industry

Veterinarians have long been considered the guardians of animal welfare and health... 

However, their role has increasingly become more diverse, which is reported to increase pressure on this occupation. 

Additionally, the hardships of working within the veterinary profession can place stress on the veterinarian’s family as a result of working long hours, and dealing with distressed clients.  These in turn have been related to feelings of loneliness, depression, relationship issues, and suicide risk. 

Challenges in the profession....

There are a number of major challenges reported within the veterinary profession, such as dealing with owners of pets who are upset or difficult, professional issues such as long work hours, and in particular, the emotional issues surrounding euthanasia of animals. 

Veterinarians may also experience conflict between their longing to preserve the life of animals and subsequently being unable to successfully treat an animal, which is perhaps another factor attributing to their attitudes to preservation of life, and seeing euthanasia as a positive conclusion. 

Additionally, veterinarians have knowledge of, and ready access to, medicines for self-poisoning, and are also under less supervision than doctors with their use of medicines, which is also a potential contributor towards their high risk of suicide.  However, despite the issues reported, there have been few psychological wellbeing studies conducted within the veterinary profession. 

Euthanasia - the major contributing factor?

Initially it was believed performing euthanasia was the major contributing factor relating to veterinarian wellbeing, however, from my own doctoral research project with veterinarians, it was evident there were additional factors affecting wellbeing - and not just performing euthanasia. 

Other factors affecting wellbeing

These factors were broken down into the following categories, and included the following:

  • Costs and financial issues, including low wages, cost of treatment, client affordability, financial costs of running a practice;
  • Dealing with difficult owners/clients, including financial restrictions, communication issues, unrealistic expectations on self and from others, gender biases, blame, compliance and non-compliance, client denial, and compassion fatigue;
  • Performing euthanasia, and in particular dealing with owners, frequency of euthanasia, reasons why euthanasia is necessary, severing of the human-animal bond, species-specific issues with euthanasia;
  • General issues such as work demands, lack of personal support, lack of knowledge, work/life balance, location of practice and area of specialisation, loneliness, family and relationship issues, and lack of effective coping strategies.

Coping skills to improve veterinarian's wellbeing....

In light of the above, part of my research project was to provide veterinarians with psychological and other coping skills which are believed to have a positive impact on their individual levels of wellbeing – including the ability to cope with the demands of their day-to-day working lives.  As mentioned previously, little appears to have been done to actively address this issue by way of the provision of a psychologically-based, and effective, intervention program. 

But there may be a solution...

Based on my qualifications as a registered psychologist, I developed a psycho-educational intervention program which includes strategies such as evidence-based coping strategies using the concepts of acceptance and commitment therapy and positive psychology.  

Furthermore, the psycho-educational intervention program allowed for the provision of other strategies such as:

  • Time management,
  • Stress management,
  • Communication skills,
  • Assertiveness skills,
  • Goal setting, and
  • Relaxation skills. 

These strategies were incorporated in an endeavour to acknowledge the growing number of literature strongly calling for suitable intervention strategies such as coping and stress management skills, as well as attempting to provide a holistic intervention program that addresses both the positive and negative aspects of wellbeing.

As my thesis is still under examination, I am unable to elaborate in too much detail about the specific results, except to say that they were very promising indeed for reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and negative affect!

About Nadine

Nadine has an extensive background in psychology and training, and has worked in a variety of organisations and industries for over 30 years. Her university training predominantly focused on organisational psychology and human resource management, and she is one of few known practitioners on the Gold Coast to specialise in positive psychology.

In addition to her qualifications as a psychologist, Nadine has a Master of Training and Development degree, and has just completed doctoral studies (Doctor of Education) focusing on veterinarian wellbeing.  Part of her doctoral research included the development of a psycho-educational intervention program, which returned promising results for treating anxiety, depression, and stress!

Due to the success of her research, Nadine is now specialising in wellbeing and suicide prevention, with a special interest in veterinary professionals.

Click here to visit the Positive Psych Solutions Page in the Vetanswers Business Directory

If you would like more information on mental health - vist the Vetanswers Resource Page: Are you ok? Don't let the silence win

Or Call Lifeline 13 11 14

 

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