What was the primary issue facing veterinarians in America before COVID-19 struck?
The primary issue facing the profession pre-COVID was a lack of practicing veterinarians and the pressures of providing goods and services that are now available elsewhere – low-cost vaccine clinics, low-cost spay/neuter services, online pharmacies, Amazon, etc. This is a factor that has contributed to burn-out, veterinarians began to feel more like salespeople, than providers of high-quality veterinary medicine. Practices were quite busy, and rescue is huge in this country. There was a rising trend in pet parents being more proactive and asking good questions in the exam room.
How has business been during the pandemic?
Some general practices went under, unable to sustain payroll for 3-months with a decrease in revenue. However, a majority of practices have been doing quite well. In fact, we as a veterinary culture realised we could be running our practices smarter by scaling back on our clinic hours and being more strategic with employee hours, and more efficient via curbside check-in. There has been an enormous surge in emergency medicine because what is perceived as “essential” versus “non-essential” has a grey zone. Therefore, all emergency hospitals have been seeing an influx of cases that a GP would be seeing. Some practices have noticed an increase in their overall profit margins because of a huge increase in pet adoption, and the fact that most pet parents are home full-time with their animals right now so are more likely to notice health issues.
In Australia, we have an incredibly high rate of suicide within the veterinary profession compared to other professions and the general public. Is poor mental health amongst veterinary workers an issue over there?
This is the same. We are the second highest profession for suicide rates. Imposter syndrome, compassion fatigue, being stuck between wanting to save all patients and pet owners with no money, the perceived negative reviews on social media, the inability to feel like they’re doing their best, a huge amount of euthanasias throughout the day … But a lot is being done with self-care workshops, morale-boosting, incorporating self-care and human-animal bonding in vet schools, and generally creating a culture that embraces well-being.
We are also seeing a shortage of vets here, especially in more rural areas. Is this something you are also facing?
Pre-COVID we were, and we still are. In fact, our DVM360 family is hosting several virtual recruiting events since most applicants cannot enter the doors of the hospitals due to the pandemic. So having the virtual career fairs will help match the right candidate to the employer. In these career fairs, we have speakers talking about well-being, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and keeping work-life balance and emotional wellbeing in check.
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