More veterinary professionals are provided access to and are pursuing mental health resources for their overall wellbeing with continued improvements on the horizon.
RAHWAY, N.J., Jan. 15, 2024 – Merck Animal Health, known as MSD Animal Health outside the United States and Canada, a division of Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, N.J., USA (NYSE:MRK), today released findings of its comprehensive Veterinary Wellbeing Study conducted in collaboration with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The latest study, which examined the wellbeing and mental health of U.S. veterinarians and support teams, underscored a positive trend in veterinarian practices and professionals taking a more proactive approach toward mental health. This is the first comprehensive study on veterinary wellbeing following the global pandemic and its impact on veterinary professionals.
Similar to previous benchmark studies (2017, 2019 and 2021), the goal of the fourth Veterinary Wellbeing Study was to identify and explore the state of veterinary professionals’ mental health and wellbeing in an effort to bring awareness to the challenges veterinarians and support teams face and more importantly, how they are able to manage them with the support received from partners such as Merck Animal Health and AVMA. Taking a broader focus this year, the study expanded its scope to examine the mental health and wellbeing of veterinary team members – including veterinary technicians and office managers – with nearly five times more responses from these positions than the 2021 survey.
“There are many positives coming out of the study, including high levels of job satisfaction and pride in work across veterinary teams. This must be balanced with the understanding that there are also challenges within the veterinary profession, including a shortage of qualified veterinary team members as well as burdensome student debt that causes stress,” said Christine Royal, DVM, vice president, companion animal and equine business unit, Merck Animal Health. “It is encouraging to see an increase in practices and professionals that are addressing team culture, wellbeing, and mental health. We remain committed to advocating for and providing resources to veterinary professionals no matter the individual’s role or title.”
“We are committed to bringing critical awareness to the challenges that veterinary professionals face and to ensure they have the appropriate tools and resources to help support mental health and wellbeing,” said Rena Carlson, DVM, AVMA president. “We understand that to sustain the health of animals, we need to ensure the wellbeing of their caretakers. The results of the latest Veterinary Wellbeing study indicate our efforts in conjunction with Merck Animal Health are working and resulting in healthier and more satisfying careers for veterinary teams. We look forward to continuing to provide resources for many years to come.”
Increase in Mental Health Resources for Professionals
Almost three-quarters of veterinary professionals express personal satisfaction with their career, but there are still factors they are concerned about, including high exhaustion, work-life balance, and shortage of vets, all of which can contribute to a feeling of burnout. Results indicate that more veterinarians who needed mental health support received outpatient treatment and counseling for mental health challenges in 2023. Moreover, there has been a substantial increase in clinics supporting their team’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, with results showing that 38% of clinics now offer an employee assistance program (EAP) as opposed to 31% in 2021 and 27% in 2019.
When it comes to clinic culture, most practicing veterinarians agree that there is a high degree of trust within their organization, their input is valued, there is sufficient time for each appointment to provide high-quality patient care, and there is candid and open communication among team members, which all contribute to a positive work environment. However, the results indicate that clinics have the opportunity to make improvements by openly discussing wellbeing and mental health in team meetings, with only 36% of veterinary teams finding that this happens somewhat or to a great extent.
Pride and Satisfaction in the Profession
While veterinarians and support teams – particularly those early in their career – experience stress and burnout, there are many aspects of the job they enjoy – unsurprisingly, including those related to helping animals. An overwhelming number of veterinarians (98%) and veterinary team members (92%) note that they are invested in their work and take pride in doing a good job. More than 80% also believe the work they do makes a positive contribution on other peoples’ lives.
Even with these results indicating an overall satisfaction in the profession, there is a perception among veterinary teams that it might not be the same for their colleagues, with less than 50% of veterinarians saying that others in the profession are satisfied with their careers. This could indicate the continued need for open communication about wellbeing and the resources available to perpetuate more positive conversation and pride in the work that veterinary teams do every day. Thankfully, over three-quarters of veterinarians and veterinary team members cite having a warm, friendly, and supportive relationship with their co-workers, a critical foundation for this important dialogue to advance.
Encouraging Conversation about Prioritizing Mental Health
Merck Animal Health has prioritized understanding the challenges that face veterinarians and veterinary technicians by issuing this important study every two years since 2017. The results continue to provide insight on the progress made and the areas that need additional attention. Key initiatives such as MentorVet, a growing entity that creates evidence-based programming to empower individuals to thrive within veterinary medicine, help facilitate guidance and support for veterinary professionals and continue to play a crucial role in fostering a supportive environment within the industry. To date, more than 350 veterinary professionals have been supported with full scholarships awarded by Merck Animal Health to participate in MentorVet’s programming (MentorVet Tech and MentorVet Leap), helping to bridge the gap when it comes to the wellbeing of veterinary professionals.
“Our research indicates that MentorVet programming reduces burnout and improves overall wellbeing on average for veterinary professionals, and our work is made possible through collaboration,” said Addie Reinhard, DVM, MS, and founder and CEO of MentorVet. “Merck Animal Health has demonstrated an unwavering, longstanding commitment to support the mental health and wellbeing of the veterinary profession through their research and their long-term support of MentorVet and other wellbeing initiatives.”
In addition, Merck Animal Health is an educational partner for MentorVet Connect, a collaboration between the AVMA and MentorVet that brings the power and support of a structured evidence-based mentor program to newly graduated AVMA members free of charge, beginning with the classes of 2018-2023. The joining of forces and organizations helps drive not only the creation of resources and mentorship, but also the adoption of them among veterinarian professionals.
Merck Animal Health remains dedicated to advancing the wellbeing of veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and the entire animal healthcare team in 2024 and beyond. The company is committed to expanding and enhancing its existing programs, as well as introducing new initiatives aimed at addressing the evolving needs of professionals within the industry.
To learn more about Merck Animal Health’s support of veterinary professionals and their mental wellbeing, visit www.vetwellbeing.com. For veterinary professionals looking to take advantage of the AVMA’s Workplace Wellbeing program, visit www.avma.org/resources-tools/wellbeing.
The fourth online study was conducted in September and October 2023 by Brakke Consulting, Inc., among a nationally representative sample of 4,636 veterinarians in the U.S., both practitioners and non-practitioners, using standardized research methods. The objectives were to continue to track wellbeing and mental health of veterinarians and benchmark findings against physicians and the U.S. general population of employed adults. Data were weighted based on age, gender, and region of the U.S. For the sample as a whole, the maximum margin of error was +/- 1.4% at 95% confidence level.
To achieve a comprehensive study of veterinary team members in 2023, Brakke Consulting collaborated with the North American Veterinary Technician Association (NAVTA), the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) and others to sample veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants, hospital practice managers, reception/client service representatives and other members of a veterinary clinic’s team. A total of 2,271 completed questionnaires were returned.
Serving more than 105,000 member veterinarians, the AVMA is the nation’s leading representative of the veterinary profession, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of animals, humans and the environment. Founded in 1863 and with members in every U.S. state and territory and more than 60 countries, the AVMA is one of the largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. Informed by our members’ unique scientific training and clinical knowledge, the AVMA supports the crucial work of veterinarians and advocates for policies that advance the practice of veterinary medicine and improve animal and human health.
MentorVet is a rapidly growing entity that creates programs leveraging evidenced-based approaches to empower veterinary professionals, transforming veterinary medicine into a healthy profession for individuals and communities. MentorVet’s flagship program, MentorVet Leap, is a mentorship and professional development program that promotes early career wellbeing by providing a centralized location for resources and support through online professional skills training, peer and paired mentorship, and mental health and financial coaching. MentorVet collaborates with a growing number of practice groups, veterinary medical associations, and corporations to make their programming possible. To read more about the early success of MentorVet, you can read their impact report in full by visiting, www.mentorvet.net/impactreport. For more information visit www.mentorvet.net or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.
About Merck Animal Health
At Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, we are unified around our purpose: We use the power of leading-edge science to save and improve lives around the world. For more than a century, we’ve been at the forefront of research, bringing forward medicines, vaccines and innovative health solutions for the world’s most challenging diseases. Merck Animal Health, a division of Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, N.J., USA, is the global animal health business of Merck. Through its commitment to TheScience of Healthier Animals®, Merck Animal Health offers veterinarians, farmers, producers, pet owners and governments one of the widest ranges of veterinary pharmaceuticals, vaccines and health management solutions and services as well as an extensive suite of connected technology that includes identification, traceability and monitoring products. Merck Animal Health is dedicated to preserving and improving the health, well-being and performance of animals and the people who care for them. It invests extensively in dynamic and comprehensive R&D resources and a modern, global supply chain. Merck Animal Health is present in more than 50 countries, while its products are available in some 150 markets. For more information, visit www.merck-animal-health.com and connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram.
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