Mental health is a big issue in the veterinary profession.
Tragically, vets are three to four times more likely than the general population — and double that of doctors or dentists — to die by suicide.
Findings from across the profession have revealed high rates of dissatisfaction and stress.
That's why Vets Now is working tirelessly to prioritise health and wellbeing in the workplace, including giving regional managers autonomy to draw up rotas that support good work-life balance and encourage staff retention.
“Vets spend so much time caring for clients and their pets that sometimes they can overlook their mental health," explained Laura Black, Vets Now’s health, safety and wellbeing manager. "At Vets Now, we allocate significant resources to making sure our people feel happy, safe and supported.
“Mental health, adapting to working out of hours and management training are among the key areas we focus on so that we can make a positive difference to our employees' lives.”
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As well as the hours and pay, most vets are faced with the prospect of putting animals to sleep during their working week, and it's feared this burden may also be having a detrimental effect on their mental health.
One of the most important initiatives at Vets Now is the company-wide employee wellbeing programme. It enables our teams and their families to access advice and counselling 24 hours a day on any health and wellbeing issues that may be affecting them.
Managers have also been given mental health awareness training to provide them with the confidence to support their teams.
Laura added: "In addition to this we encourage our senior staff to look at wellbeing options to improve morale and wellbeing in their teams and to make suggestions and request budget for activities.
“We also hold an annual awards ceremony to honour, celebrate and recognise individuals and teams who have gone the extra mile to make a real difference to patients, their pets and their colleagues.
"This is our way of showing appreciation for all the hard work they put in each day."
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At Vets Now, senior staff have worked hard to ensure clinical roles are flexible and that people feel empowered and confident enough to make the most of their potential.
A lot of that comes down to the learning culture. It encourages people to learn from their mistakes and to take confidence from that.
To foster this, Vets Now has established an online forum for clinical staff to discuss cases, positive and negative experiences, ethical dilemmas, and valuable research they have come across.
Laura said: "By encouraging our teams to review each other’s cases and take part in clinical governance, we have helped foster open discussions on how clinical staff can manage cases better and remove concerns around 'How did I do?'.
“We also have significant event reviews, which encourage a ‘no blame’ culture. These are designed to help vets and vet nurses learn how they could perhaps have done things differently.
"This is all done in an open and safe environment to help build confidence and a culture of openness."
Earlier this year, Vets Now was praised for its commitment to health and wellbeing by the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) at its inaugural wellbeing awards.
But Laura cautioned: “While it was nice to be recognised for the work we've done, for me, it’s more important that our staff feel it’s made a positive difference to their lives.”