Wellbeing in Veterinary: Love your work, love your life!


The world of veterinary practice is made up of passionate and dedicated individuals, but sadly statistics show that it is also a profession that has one of the highest suicide rates. In a Merck Animal Health Veterinary Wellbeing Study, it was reported that 79% of vets experience anxiety and depression. Wellbeing and being able to find the right work-life balance is an ongoing challenge. However, it is also vital to sustaining a long and successful career, and a strong veterinary industry. 

It’s not just the physical demands of the job, or the long and unpredictable hours that come with veterinary practice. Not being able to save an animal or having to euthanize due to ownership neglect or their financial situation is contrary to the reasons most people enter the profession – which is to be able to help and heal sick animals. Being confronted with these types of ethical dilemmas on almost a daily basis and having to shoulder the emotional burden that comes with that, makes finding a good work-life balance easier said than done. 

What makes it harder? 

Women make up the majority (around 75%) of Vets in the UK. It might be considered that adding in the responsibilities of home and family make achieving that life balance even more difficult. It’s not a 9-5 job and working long hours or being on call can put a strain on family relationships, not to mention personal exhaustion from having to try keep up with all the demands coming from all angles (men and women!) 

The business aspect of running a practice is yet another stress factor. Managing employees, clients, supplies, administration and finances is another whole realm of responsibility. Sometimes tending to pets seems to be the least of a Vet’s worries. Between doing surgeries, consulting and diagnosing, vets are taxed, mentally, emotionally and physically every day. Yet even if it’s been a long and tiring day, if a client phones 20 minutes before closing time wanting to bring in a pet that needs urgent attention, there’s no telling them to wait until tomorrow, it’s an emergency that has to be dealt with, and that just comes with the territory of being a Vet. 

Wellbeing, what’s the solution?

Some veterinary practices are progressive, recognising that looking after employee wellbeing is important, and a priority. They offer more accommodating rotas, giving staff the flexibility needed to be able to achieve a better work-life balance. My team over at Simply Veterinary Specialist Headhunters prioritise working with these types of practices, the employers that are fully invested in their employees' happiness, job satisfaction and wellbeing and do what they can, within their power, to accommodate a range of individual requirements and needs. 

Sometimes though, due to circumstances completely outside the control of a practice owner, employee expectations cannot always be met in the way they would like. Expectations from employees need to be considered within the parameters that a veterinary practice operates in. For example: in a practice that offers extended opening hours, or offers an out of hours service, there will be a need to work a mixture of shifts and/or take after hours emergency calls, so it becomes tricky when one vet says they can’t work weekends, or can’t be part of the on call rota, it means your team have to pick up the slack, which can create an unbalance and colleague resentment. 

It starts with you – know yourself. 

I believe that enjoying your career and enjoying your life outside of work is very possible, even working in a practice that is open 7 days a week. It could be suggested that it starts with an awareness of oneself and mindfulness of maintaining a good level of wellbeing. Knowing when to say no, understanding when the stress is getting to a point where it becomes overwhelming, and knowing what helps you to relax can help you step back from the brink a breakdown.

For some people this could be going for a run, long cycle or swim. For others it may be to lose themselves in a book, spend time in the garden or watch a TV series. Participating in crafts, hobbies and recreational activities is hugely beneficial for achieving wellbeing. They give a person’s mind, body and soul an opportunity to switch off and focus instead on doing something they love. 

Mindset has a great deal to do with wellbeing. A positive outlook and a passion for the work goes a long way to reducing stress in the workplace. If you genuinely love what you do and find joy in everyday tasks, it can put a spring in your step, rather than it feeling like a daily grind. 

Finally, make an effort, every day to express gratitude and gain appreciation for the good things and opportunities in your life. Remembering what you have and being grateful for it easily cancels any pity party invitation that could draw negativity into your life. You always have a choice, choose the one that makes you smile!