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If you believe that you’re in crisis, please get help immediately by calling 988. Find more resources here.

Wellbeing

The Veterinary Medical Association Executives (VMAE) is committed to support veterinary professionals in advancing wellbeing in their personal and professional lives. We affirm the positive impact that results when veterinary professionals are committed to their wellbeing. We also recognize the importance of a commitment in veterinary workplaces to foster a culture that supports individuals, teams, and the organization in advancing wellbeing.

The VMAE Wellbeing Committee has assembled resources for VMA Executives to support both personal and workplace wellbeing. We encourage you to share these resources with your members.

The Committee recommends that VMAs seeking to address wellbeing use the following questions as conversation to help set priorities and focus. Some organizations dive into this area and try to do too much too soon. We suggest that the leadership of the VMA discuss which areas are in greatest need and where the organization can provide the most value and make the most impact, before expanding the scope of activities.

    1. What is our overall mental health policy? What are the issues facing our organization?
    2. What is our policy responding to in-hospital crisis calls/requests?
    3. Are employees/members provided mental health literacy/awareness training? Leadership?
    4. Who are our leads/champions for wellbeing?
    5. Is there additional support available to employees/members to address mental health concerns (EAP/MAP or contracted mental health professionals, facilitated peer support groups, and peer volunteers)?
    6. Do we regularly assess work design for risk of job overload, cognitive demand, or lack of support?
    7. How do we assess wellbeing and burnout in employees/members?
    8. What is our level of buy-in regarding wellbeing, including senior leadership?
    9. What has been working well for us so far regarding wellbeing?
    10. If you could change/do one action right now that would positively impact wellness, what would it be?

VMA Wellbeing Committee Charge Template
The VMAE Wellbeing Committee developed this template for a VMA to customize and use to establish the charge for its own Wellbeing Committee.

Listeners on Call

Listeners on Call Press Release – April 2022

Preventing the Internalization of External Stressors – May 2022 newsletter article

Being Open-Minded With Healthy Boundaries – June 2022 newsletter article

Mental Well-being During Seasons of Financial Strain – July 2022 newsletter article

Routines that Support Mental Well-being – August 2022 newsletter article

Suicide Prevention and Postvention

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s Crisis Chat
If you believe that you’re in crisis, please get help immediately by calling 9-8-8 or contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s Crisis Chat team. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers additional resources. For medical, police and fire emergency situations always call 9-1-1.

Effective July 16, 2022, federal law requires all states to transition from the previous 10-digit suicide prevention line number to a three-digit number: 9-8-8. The goal is to help connect callers in crisis (mental health or addiction) to crisis response and support systems in their local area. Note that 9-8-8 is not a replacement for 9-1-1. If someone needs the physical presence of law enforcement, fire, or EMS, they still need to call 9-1-1. The 9-8-8 number is a mental health crisis line for resources and access to mental health professionals.

A Guide for Veterinary Workplaces: This is a free guide to help support veterinary workplaces in the aftermath of an employee’s death by suicide. The guide was developed by experts in veterinary medicine, suicide prevention, and survivors of suicide loss in the veterinary medical community. (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)in partnership with the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA)Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA), and the Veterinary Medical Association Executives (VMAE)).

A Toolkit for Colleges of Veterinary Medicine: This free toolkit was developed by experts in veterinary medicine and suicide prevention, as well as survivors of suicide loss in the veterinary medical community, to help support colleges of veterinary medicine in the aftermath of a student’s death by suicide. (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

Substance Abuse

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities and its web site contains a number of valuable resources.

Apps

Apps such as Headspace and Calm provide meditation and mindfulness tools to create habits that support mental health. They can improve individual wellbeing by promoting better sleep, reducing stress and anxiety, and developing mindfulness. VMAE does not endorse any particular products but encourages individuals to compare benefits and features.

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

The AVMA believes that the wellbeing of veterinary professionals is one of the most important issues facing the profession, and a critical focus of the organization. Improving wellbeing is a shared responsibility that requires a committed effort by all members of our community. Practice teams, business owners, veterinary colleges, organizations, and individuals all have important roles to play. The AVMA wellbeing pages contain valuable resources such as the Professional Quality of Life Assessment, QPR suicide prevention training (also known as gatekeeper training), Workplace Wellbeing Certificate Program, and a guide to help support veterinary workplaces in the aftermath of an employee’s death by suicide.

American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC)

Building a thriving profession requires that we continually explore and evaluate every aspect of how we train and develop our professionals during their education and beyond. Teaching students about personal and community wellbeing will impact how they interact with themselves and others throughout their careers. AAVMC provides information about wellbeing, a community-based approach, and a library of resources.

AAVMC Veterinary Wellbeing Speaker/Expertise Guidelines.

Veterinary Mental Health Initiative

Shanti’s Veterinary Mental Health Initiative (VMHI) was founded in 2021 because veterinarians and veterinary technicians are currently an underserved population with regards to mental health care and support. With support groups and one-to-one services, VMHI provides an empathetic and supportive space to foster wellbeing and resilience in the veterinary profession.

Veterinary Wellbeing Alliance

A consortium of 16 sponsors and stakeholders are working with VMAE to offer Listeners On Call, a one-year pilot project launched in April 2022 with three leading VMAs and their 10,000 veterinarian members. The powerful platform offers each member of these VMAs up to four hours per month of complimentary access to a trained (and anonymous) listener. This model is specifically designed for those seeking to establish a “human connection” to discuss their challenges, frustrations, and concerns. It is focused on providing low-intensity care BEFORE situations escalate.

Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aid is a national program to teach the skills to respond to the signs of mental illness and substance use. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) teaches people to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health and substance use challenges among adults.

VIN Foundation

VIN Foundation’s Vets4Vets® is a confidential peer-to-peer support program for veterinary students and veterinarians, run by experienced and active veterinarians, and mental health professionals. Free for all, this resource includes mentor matches, issue-specific groups (such as neurodivergent, recovering, cancer etc) and helps with all topics ranging from difficult school circumstances to emotional stress, co-worker challenges, and beyond.

Mind Matters International Statement

Working together to improve wellbeing across the veterinary community, the AVMA and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons joined forces under the umbrella of the Mind Matters International initiative to approve a joint statement on mental health and wellbeing. In 2022, VMAE joined several other national and global veterinary organizations as signatories on the statement.

This glossary is a practical and easy-to-use guide to health and wellbeing terminology and vocabulary, intended to promote shared understanding among veterinary medicine association executives. Although every effort has been made to present accurate and up-to-date definitions, this glossary is intended for use only as a resource, not as an authority. The health and wellbeing landscape is a complex and rapidly changing area. The list of terms included is not intended to be either exhaustive or exclusive. This glossary is openly available for all to use and may evolve over time.

Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence (National Wellness Institute).

Burnout is a workplace syndrome characterized by high emotional exhaustion, high depersonalization (e.g., cynicism), and a low sense of personal accomplishment (NASEM, 2019).

Compassion Fatigue is a condition characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion leading to a diminished capacity to empathize or feel compassion for self or others when professional boundaries are not maintained. It is sometimes referred to as a secondary traumatic stress.

Compassion Satisfaction is about the pleasure you derive from being able to do your work well. For example, you may feel like it is a pleasure to help others through your work. You may feel positively about your colleagues or your ability to contribute to the work setting or even the greater good of society (School of Social Work, University of Buffalo).

Professional Wellbeing is a function of being satisfied with one’s job, finding meaning in work, feeling engaged at work, having a high-quality working life, and finding professional fulfillment in work (Danna and Griffin, 1999; Doble and Santha, 2008).

Work-life Integration involves blending both personal and professional responsibilities. Rather than viewing work and personal time as separate entities, professionals can find areas of compromise. The largest advantage of work-life integration is flexibility. When employees are able to properly coordinate their schedules and responsibilities, they are more likely to experience satisfaction in all areas of their life. When work-life integration is out of balance, employees may experience decreased satisfaction and productivity in both areas (U.S. Chamber of Commerce).

VMAE wishes to credit the following individuals for their contributions to section above: Dr. Makenzie Peterson, AAVMC Director for Wellbeing; Dr. Philip Richmond, Chair, Florida VMA Professional Wellness and Wellbeing Committee; and Dr. Jen Brandt, AVMA Director for Wellbeing Initiatives. (August 2022)