The Importance of Health and Wellbeing for Ourselves & Our Veterinary Teams


By: Julia Behr, CVPM, CVBL, CCFP

Veterinary care providers are known for our love and passion for pets and animals. This passion, coupled with positive and negative outcomes of the work we do, puts us in a position to face compassion fatigue in our lives. Many of us turned to animals as a form of comfort, love, and support. Veterinary professionals enter the veterinary field with the hope of returning the compassion in the same manner. A common factor is the desire to help animals that cannot help themselves. Team members will give their blood, sweat, and tears to their patients, their jobs, and the work, putting the cause ahead of themselves. It is this exact dedication that can subject them to the onset of burnout and compassion fatigue.

I wanted to take some time to discuss the importance of health and wellbeing for ourselves and our veterinary teams in an effort to combat burnout and compassion fatigue.

In the book, Well Being: The 5 Essential Elements by Tom Rath & Jim Harter, they identify 5 essential elements that lead to wellbeing including Career Wellbeing, Social Wellbeing, Financial Wellbeing, Physical Wellbeing, and Community Wellbeing with Career Wellbeing being the foundation of the best possible life. With each of these elements, you are either thriving, struggling, or suffering.

Here is what each is defined as:

  • Career Wellbeing = You like what you do every day.
  • Social Wellbeing = You have meaningful friendships in your life.
  • Financial Wellbeing = You manage your money well.
  • Physical Wellbeing = You have energy to get things done.
  • Community Wellbeing = You like where you live.

Many employers already have physical wellness programs, but Gallup has found that wellbeing is about more than just physical health. When people are thriving in all five areas, they have better health outcomes than when thriving in just physical wellbeing.

To determine the wellbeing of yourself and your team, you pose a two-part question, called the Best Possible Life Scale.

Imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top represents your best possible life and the bottom represents your worse possible life.

Question 1: On which step of the ladder would say you personally feel you stand at this time? (0-10)

Question 2: On which step do you think you stand about 5 years from now? (0-10)

Scoring:

  • Thriving: You score 7 or higher on best possible life present and 8 or higher on best life future
  • Struggling: You score in between 4 and 7 or 8
  • Suffering: You score below 4 for best life present and future

In this same book, they recommend 3 ways to boost career wellbeing:

  • Every day, use your strengths.
  • Identify someone with a shared mission who encourages your growth. Spend more time with this person.
  • Opt into more social time with the people and teams you enjoy being around at work.

What are some specific ways you can support your team’s and your own health and wellbeing and help them to achieve thriving on the Best Possible Life Scale?

  • Be open to talk about it! Every practice should discuss stress and mental health frequently and encourage people to seek help if needed. It can be easy to think that “I’m the only one that feels this way.” Open discussion gives people “permission" to acknowledge their feelings and helps to remove the stigma. It is also important to offer more private assistance for people who want more professional support.
  • Provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and teletherapy options. Our partner, Alera, offers these benefits.
  • Provide work life balance and harmony. Younger generations really value and understand the importance of having better work- life balance. They do not want to work 60+ hour weeks, which means you will need to think outside of the box with your scheduling. To attract and retain new talent, it is essential to create a culture that is positive and promotes wellbeing. Wellness is important across every industry, but it is particularly important in the veterinary industry.
  • Invite mental health professionals and financial planners to speak at practice meetings regularly.
  • Create a workplace wellbeing program at your hospital.

VGP (Veterinary Growth Partners) has a group on the IGNITE platform called Pawsitive Health & Wellbeing Alliance. It will provide content for you and your team to help promote Health & Wellbeing!! A lot of practices are printing out the posts and putting them on Pawsitive boards to help their team.

I am hopeful that these suggestions and the Pawsitive Health & Wellbeing Alliance group on IGNITE will help you better promote wellbeing for yourself and your team. If you need other support ideas and you are a VGP Elite member, you can begin working with one of our Practice Coaches. Learn more here:

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