Veterinarian Team Wellness Tips You Can’t Afford to Miss
Your veterinarian teams wellness directly correlates with patient outcomes, client satisfaction, and employee retention
Wellness is not something clinic leaders can leave to chance.
According to The AVMA, “For decades, studies have detailed that veterinarians are at risk for depression, psychological distress, and burnout. Many veterinarians show a progression from idealistic enthusiasm to a gradual loss of energy and commitment. Fatigue, frustration, and mental anguish may lead to feelings of incompetence, helplessness, and hopelessness – and can shorten a career or lead to a toxic environment within your veterinary team. You, your associates and colleagues, and your entire veterinary team are at risk.”
Below are the four best practices to increase team wellness throughout your clinic.
- Emphasize work-life balance
- Offer an EAP
- Provide mental health training
- Set boundaries with clients
- Emphasize work-life balance
The Veterinary Jobs Market Place approached veterinarians, veterinary nurses, veterinary technicians, and hospital managers to ask for their advice about practical, tactical tips on re-establishing your work-life balance. Outlined below are seven practical tips they found most helpful for work-life balance.
- Establish boundaries
- Make use of smartphone’s smarts
- Take lunch outside
- Book a holiday
- Saying No
Let’s take a look at each suggestion:
It does not come as a surprise that a job based entirely around caring for animals would exceed the standard eight-hour work days. Most veterinarians work 10-12 hours a day and are more than willing to answer questions for pet parents during their time off.
While working overtime every once in a while is okay, it is more important that your staff can find the work-life balance they deserve and need. Overworking your team every day will only lead to burnout, while having a realistic view of this balance will help ensure your staff succeed in your clinic long term.
Make use of smartphone’s smarts
The capabilities smartphones provide keep us on the clock at all times. You can receive calendar updates, emails, social media alerts, etc., all in the palm of your hand. But when “unplugging” from work, technology can also be your friend.
It is important to encourage or require your staff to use the settings on their smartphone to switch from a working mindset to an at-home mindset. They can limit notifications, calls, and texts. Encourage them to switch to receiving only notifications from a small circle that isn’t involved in their work lives. This will help your staff fully relax while away from the clinic.
Reach out to local businesses or clubs that offer activities your employees can participate in when not at work. See if they would be interested in providing your company discounts or deals that you can advertise to your employees.
Suggested activities or groups to get their mind off work include reading, painting, drawing, hiking, and going to the movies.
“Me time” may initially feel selfish to your employees, but it’s critical to encourage this to prevent burnout in your clinic. Having a clear mind will help your employees provide your patients with the best care possible.
Take lunch outside
Instead of allowing your employees to rush around while trying to eat their lunch and not taking a proper break, encourage them to stop for at least 30 minutes and have their lunch outside.
Taking time outside or walking around the block can help your employees get their heads back in the game and boost their mood for the remainder of the day.
If you don’t currently have an outdoor space available for your employees, consider investing in these for the well-being of your clinic. However, if that isn’t immediately possible, still encourage them to step outside for a needed break and fresh air.
Book a holiday
Your clinic will survive without one or two employees for a couple of days or weeks a year. Don’t let the evergrowing clinic to-do lists prevent your employees from taking the time they need to reset. Remember, your clinic will suffer more if you lose employees permanently to burnout, stress, or self-harm.
So let them take a holiday, go on a dream vacation, unplug, and relax.
Learning to say no might be the most important lesson for anyone working, but specifically for your staff that are in a physically and emotionally demanding job. By nature, veterinarians want to help in any way possible. But this sets you up to be taken advantage of.
Establish boundaries for yourself and your team, and learn to say no to things you know your staff can’t handle or will overwhelm your clinic’s plate even more.
2. Offer an EAP
Employee assistance programs (EAPs) provide your staff with short-term counseling options that pinpoint specific behavioral or mental health topics. When these issues become more severe, employees struggle to work through them independently, which can blur the line between personal and work life.
Providing employees with an EAP will prevent staff from having their problems left unchecked causing them to fester and grow, which will directly affect their whole life, including their job.
Beth Drost from Veterinary Practice News notes, “Counseling services available through EAPs are confidential and can be broad. Many third-party carriers offer EAPs that employers can provide to their teams. Although a supervisor may suggest a staff member utilize such a program, the employee can contact the service provider independently. Having access to an EAP through an employer can make it easier for employees to seek help.”
3. Provide mental health training
Julia Hoffman with Employee Benefit News states, “Mental health coaching is a unique blend of live human coaching supplemented with digital programming. With coaching, members work with a highly trained specialist who can teach and motivate them to apply evidence-based skills throughout their daily lives.”
Mental health is, of course, a very case-by-case issue. However, employees with uncomplicated, more mild cases have proven mental health coaching to be a more effective alternative to therapy. Another pro to mental health training that employees will love is that this method is highly convenient and hyper-personalized to the individual.
4. Set boundaries with clients
Clients often expect their veterinary clinic to drop everything for them, if needed, and we can’t blame them. They want the best for their furry friends. However, you can only allow this expectation to go so far. You must set realistic boundaries that benefit your team, your clients, and your patients.
In some cases, it may even be necessary to stop doing business with a particular client if they begin to affect the mental health of your team or the care other patients receive.
“Firing bad clients is never fun, however, it is necessary at some point during most veterinary careers, unfortunately. On a few occasions there were lines in the sand drawn, then crossed, and the leadership team in my practice had to make difficult decisions,” notes Rhonda Bell from Veterinary Practice News.