It’s the dark and very dangerous side of being a veterinarian.
For many, a career in veterinary is a rewarding experience requiring a passionfor animals, great interpersonal skills and a strong work ethic.
But statistics reveal the suicide rate for veterinarians is almost four timeshigher than the general population across the UK, Australia, US, New Zealandand Canada.
Psychologist Dr Nadine Hamilton has spent the last ten years researching whythe mental wellbeing of vets has become so compromised and what can be doneabout it.
She is a graduate of the University of Southern Queensland’s (USQ) Doctor ofEducation and currently enrolled in the University’s Doctor of Philosophy.
“The effects of working long hours, performing euthanasia on animals,emotional pressure, financial issues, unrealistic expectations, and dealingwith distressed clients places considerable stress on both the vet themselvesand their families at home,” Dr Hamilton said.
“Failure to cope with such stress upsets mental wellbeing and can lead toserious emotional, physical, and behavioural issues. For some, it leads todeath.
“This is a reality of their job, so how do we help them deal with thesedemands?”
In her recently published book Coping with Stress and Burnout as aVeterinarian , Dr Hamilton examined the problem and the science that can beused to tackle it head-on.
“If we are to reduce this suffering we need to find out what hinders a vet’swellbeing and use targeted solutions that work,” she said.
“That will involve us drawing from the fields of positive psychology,acceptance and commitment therapy, career construction theory, and resiliencystudies.”
Dr Hamilton’s intervention program is primarily focused on stress management,emphasising organisational skills (incorporating simple actions such asclustering phone calls and meetings) and goal setting.
Dr Hamilton is the founder of the charity Love Your Pet Love Your Vet, andpreviously developed the Coping and Wellbeing Program for VeterinaryProfessionals – an evidence-based psycho-educational intervention to educatevets on how to develop protective attitudes, enhance wellbeing, and increasetheir coping skills.
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