My husband and I recently participated in the Long Island Out Of The Darkness Walk. We walked in honor of the the veterinary community as Team Vet Med. The veterinary field is facing a mental health crisis right now that seems to be going unnoticed. Veterinary staff have to go through years of intense medical training to be able to practice. This training is expensive and our pay does not reflect that. We also have to deal with patient death and abusive clients on a daily basis. Clients accuse us of being greedy because medical care is expensive due to overhead costs and the lack of insurance. We get told that the we only recommend certain food or medications because we get paid to. Your vet staff are getting tired of being asked why we did not become “real” doctors or nurses.
With the pandemic, all of these issues have become more extreme. Covid-19 caused a drastic increase in pet ownership but there was also a lack of availability for appointments due to curbside care. Instead of talking to the owner while doing the exam, we had to call the owner, go outside and find the pet, do the exam, call the owner again to approve the treatment plan, go outside to give the animal back and then go over the medications and plan again in person. The slow downs caused clients to become impatient and angry. The increased hostility has made staff leave the field all together. We simply do not have the bodies to do everything we need to. Skipping breaks, staying late and picking up shifts are common practice. I had to give up a day off every week just so my department could get by.
Every veterinary staff member is struggling right now even if they seem fine. We are the poster children for taking our work home with us. Either we sit at home thinking about the hard case we had for days or we literally adopt a patient and take it home. Two of my three pets were originally my patients. Lately, it has been a struggle just to get up and go to work. I recently had an irate owner threaten to call the cops on me for “kidnapping” a pet she gave us the authorization to treat. Organizations have been started to help address this issue but without the support of pet owners, these groups can only do so much.
If you are struggling with depression, whether you are vet staff or not, there are a lot of support systems available that can help you. Please reach out. There is nothing wrong with getting assistance when you need it. Everyone is going through something. Do not go it alone. Remember to be kind to others. You never know what another person is going through.