Once a veterinarian, always a veterinarian – veterinary wellbeing at heart
I knew already from an early age that I wanted to become a veterinarian. I am not alone with my thoughts. A survey done in UK in 2019 with thousand respondents under 16 years showed that being a veterinarian is in TOP 10 in dream jobs both for girls and boys. Being a veterinarian is truly an inspiring, meaningful, versatile, and responsible career.
Importance of the veterinarian wellbeing
My career has shifted me away from the traditional role of a veterinarian in practice. I enjoyed my time in practice very much but working with a team and with the wellbeing of animals in a broader level led me into working with animal pharma. I still however identify myself very much as a veterinarian.
This is why I believe that the topic of veterinary wellbeing that has been discussed a lot in the recent years resonates with me a lot. The understanding and data have been piling up about the high stress, possibility for burnout and mental distress that veterinarians encounter in their work life globally. This position of being inside yet outside of the veterinary industry has given me the opportunity to raise awareness of the ongoing discussion and offer my contribution to the issue.
Research among young vets
I was fortunate to combine my studies to support my role in animal pharma to also support the knowledge on the professional fulfilment and work wellbeing of Finnish veterinarians in their early career. The research which was conducted in 2021 as a part of EMBA studies in Henley Business School focused on understanding the protective factors such as resilience on the risk of burnout. However, the data about the stress encountered by the young vets and the very high risk of burnout was the most striking information I gathered from my material when surveying almost 100 young Finnish veterinarians. In my data over 60% of the respondents demonstrated symptoms of burnout. Unfortunately, Finland is not the only country with this same phenomenon.
The aim of my research was to create recommendations to the key players with the possibility to impact the early stage of veterinary career; Universities offering veterinary education and the employers of recently graduated veterinarians. These recommendations were nothing new to what have been suggested by researchers that had touched on the subject earlier and in other countries. These included for example mentoring, proper onboarding, support for the new employees in the workplace, but also education about the protective factors such as resilience. There is still much to do to create support for the young professionals. Fortunately, the initiatives are starting to become more visible also in Finland. The Veterinary Association is looking into the matter, University of Helsinki has been focusing on how to bring these topics to the curriculum, a volunteer-based peer support phone service EPE (translates to Vet Talks to a Vet) has been operating for some time.
Veterinarian wellbeing creates animal wellbeing
Again, I was fortunate to combine the matter close to my heart with my career. As Vetcare is a company founded by veterinarians and working bravely for greater animal wellbeing, I was able to contribute my time to this important message. We see here in Vetcare that one part of our aim is to contribute also to the veterinary wellbeing with the tools and message channels that we have. We see that sustainability’s P that stands for people should be seen as the wellbeing of the veterinarians in our sustainability strategy. Its already in the name, VETcare! I believe that working transparently and together with the different stakeholders with this important topic, we can achieve effectively our common goals for improving wellbeing of young vets.
I have been able to present my material to the Helsinki University Veterinary Faculty and Finnish Veterinary Association. We are discussing how we want to define and support our aim to support veterinary wellbeing in company level. I will be able to start volunteering in EPE.
As said, being a veterinarian is truly an inspiring, meaningful, versatile, and responsible career.
Writer: Susanna Peiponen, a veterinarian, dog lover, mentor, Director at Vetcare and football middleback