Wellbeing in veterinary practice; how can we improve it?
Health and wellbeing are key to effective teamwork in busy veterinary practices. With so many demands on your time, it can be easy for feelings of overload and stress to make an appearance, which isn't conducive to a productive or positive workplace.
A poor sense of health and wellbeing in the veterinary setting quickly takes its toll, particularly on performance levels, productivity, and efficiency. Additionally, in pressurised situations with little support, rates of absence are likely to increase, which can impact quality of care, increase the chances of mistakes, and place even more strain on other team members. And of course, this is a key cause of the current staffing crisis, as burnt-out staff leave clinical practice.
How to enhance team wellbeing in veterinary practice environments
Everyone within a workplace can contribute to establishing a positive culture, which includes taking key steps collectively to improve health and wellbeing in veterinary workplaces.
Providing valuable tools and solutions
Even small changes to workplace procedures and guidelines can transform team morale and enhance wellbeing. Creating workarounds for common stressors is a great place to start, one aspect of which may involve switching to intuitive digital solutions to aid communication, collaboration, and practice management. Good veterinary-focused digital solutions are designed to aid workload management and streamline the hand-over process between staff. Whether that is being able to track every patient at a glance, or using built-in checklists to reduce the risk (or perceived risk) of missing something important, it all helps to take the pressure off.
Sometimes you will encounter stressors that can't be addressed with a physical tool, such as the emotional toll that seeing animals or their owners in distress can have, or the moral conflict presented by the owner without funds. In these situations, building resilience is key - this may include providing your reception team with additional breaks from answering phone calls, protected staff “decompression” time, or investing in bereavement training for some of your nursing team who can support both clients and colleagues.
Highlighting key resources
There are a variety of resources that are available to veterinary staff, all of which provide beneficial services that can make a significant positive impact. Highlighting and signposting these services within your practice can be invaluable, not only because your team will have different resources to turn to, but also because it demonstrates that you genuinely care about their wellbeing.
Resources such as VetLife provide free, confidential and independent help to all members of the veterinary community, including non-clinical team members. In 2021 alone, VetLife responded to more than 3,300 enquiries via their 24 hour a day, seven day a week helpline.
Other resources available include the Mind Matters initiative which runs regular online panel sessions addressing a variety of topics, including social media and mental health, maintaining balance, and navigating change.
The British Veterinary Chronic Illness Support service also does important work and is run by veterinary professionals with chronic illnesses for others with similar experiences. Additionally, the British Veterinary Association website has a selection of blogs and articles addressing a range of health and wellbeing issues, including how nature can benefit our mental health and how NOT to support veterinary professionals experiencing physical ill-health.
Mindfulness is a person-centered approach that involves applying a sense of awareness to everything we are doing. In a workplace setting, mindfulness might include focusing on the task at hand whilst letting both external and internal distractions float by without making an impact. Mindfulness in personal settings can involve maintaining a routine, making time to be creative, and meditating for a few minutes every day.
In many settings, this approach has been shown to have concrete benefits, including alleviating feelings of anxiety, stress and depression, allowing us to approach life more positively, and reducing the amount of time we spend ruminating on negative feelings or situations.
The importance of positive veterinary wellbeing
Ultimately, teams that feel valued and supported are better equipped to deal effectively with the myriad challenges and pressures that can emerge within busy veterinary practices with full client lists. In addition to ensuring that every member of the team is encouraged to share their thoughts in an environment that prioritises listening, it is vital to provide the right tools to allow everyone to reach their potential.
However, supporting the team on its own isn’t sufficient: active measures also need to be taken to reduce the pressure they’re under. While some short-term stress is beneficial to encouraging optimum performance, excessive pressure over the medium to long term destroys morale, motivation, and mental health. Given that we can’t all just go out and recruit 3 or 4 more full-time veterinary professionals, we need to be 'working smart, not hard'.
Plexi's intuitive scheduling, workflow, and communications tools are designed to alleviate the pressure on veterinary teams and enable them to work smarter instead of harder.
Get in touch with the team today to find out more about how we can help support your practice.