Future Leaders: Culmination of our wellness journey

By Dr. Caitlin DeWilde: Member of the 2014-2015 Future Leaders class

Veterinary mental wellness and peer assistanceWith the start of the AVMA Convention in Boston, we’re at the culmination of a year-long effort on behalf of the AVMA Future Leaders Class of 2014-2015.

Our group of 10 veterinarians met as strangers less than one year ago, tasked with the challenge of creating a valuable, indelible resource set on the topic of veterinary workplace wellness.

This topic is unfortunately long overdue for discussion. Perpetually putting our patients first, veterinarians have seen animal wellness initiatives grow in recent years. However, our own wellness has taken a back burner, despite growing stressors to our profession.

Representing a wide range of backgrounds both professionally and personally, our group had no member who was exempt from wellness deficits. Each of us had experienced or known a colleague who had suffered from compassion fatigue, burnout, financial or physical strains.

As individuals, each of us struggled with different aspects of the topic. As veterinarians, we all saw the need for collecting and sharing resources to help our fellow colleagues across the country and across industry disciplines.

Just as our individual interests were varied, we realized that AVMA members would differ in how they wanted to receive this new information. To maximize the accessibility, we set out to create resources in a variety of formats.

Our largest resource launches at the AVMA Convention: a website and interactive toolkit available at avma.org/wellness. Here, you’ll find a variety of information presented in varied formats, including:

  • An online self-assessment tool called the ProQOL (Professional Quality of Life) Assessment. The ProQOL identifies where an individual caretaker falls on a scale regarding compassion fatigue, burnout, and compassion satisfaction.
  • Short, five-minute podcasts to share information and inspiration. These include podcasts from experts including:
    • Dr. Ernie Ward: Wellness in the Workplace: Small Steps Can Produce Big Results
    • Dr. Karen Bradley: “Daily Choices” Required to Find Perfect Blend of Work-Life Balance
    • Dr. Carrie LaJeunesse: Assess Your Professional Quality of Life
    • Dr. Jeff Thoren and Sally Starbuck Stamp of Gifted Leaders: 5 Strategies for Everyday Happiness
  • Links to videos on topics including veterinary stress, compassion fatigue, and more – including two videos by the Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland, Ore., showcasing a variety of staff wellness initiatives they have incorporated into their practice. These projects included art therapy, staff yoga, and healthy eating.
  • Helpful websites and links to access more information outside our research.
  • Reading material recommendations, including journal articles, published interviews and books.

In addition to the website resource, we have worked with a host of experts to share their knowledge at several events at the AVMA Convention. Our group is hosting several traditional lectures, a panel discussion and a 15-table roundtable discussion. Along with our nearly 20 experts, we hope to facilitate more conversation about topics including compassion fatigue, suicide prevention, workplace drug testing, parenthood in practice, and LGBT-friendly workplaces.

However you may choose to consume the information, I encourage you to spend some time exploring these tools. Our goal was, and will continue to be, to raise awareness and education to help veterinarians succeed in all aspects of their lives, not just in the office. Take a few minutes to educate yourself and your staff about the issues that are affecting your workplace, and find ways to be well.

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