World Veterinary Day: 'Strengthening veterinary resilience'
April 28, 2022
World Veterinary Day, created by the World Veterinary Association (WVA) in 2000, celebrates the veterinary profession and promotes veterinarians' fantastic work. For 2022, this falls on April 30th, and the theme for 2022 is "Strengthening veterinary resilience."
The veterinary profession is a profoundly rewarding pursuit. Safeguarding animals against illness means protecting those who can suffer but cannot speak. Veterinarians are called upon to ensure these animals have a voice and an advocate ensuring their welfare is a priority, but this burden can be physically and mentally taxing. Stress, burnout, and other health issues have risen recently, particularly during the pandemic. World Veterinary Day on April 30th is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of veterinarians to the health of animals, people, and the environment while acknowledging the ongoing need for mental health support systems in a trying field.
Trish Haak, a veterinary licensed clinical social worker, has implemented Wellness Rounds.
Healthy animals require healthy advocates, so training to be a veterinarian should include how to stay healthy as a practitioner. At the Veterinary College, to prepare students moving into their fourth clinical year, a "Care Forward" class offers a wide selection of resilience strategies to students, inspiring them to keep the momentum up as they move through their fourth year.
Trish Haak, a veterinary licensed clinical social worker at the Veterinary College, has taken this further by establishing recurring Wellness Rounds and has been able to embed them into the clinical fourth-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) syllabus itself. Essentially, Wellness Rounds allow students to step back and reflect on the transition they are going through from student to practitioner while giving them tools, ideas, and options for dealing with the long hours and pressure.
Haak said, "I consider them communication rounds because it's a hybrid between processing cases and providing some support around resilience and well-being. It's a non-judgmental space for students to process the nonmedical aspects of their work, and it's modeled after what we call Balint groups in human medicine. These are facilitated by a mental health provider and provide a space for practitioners to process their cases and receive peer support. The whole purpose of the Wellness Rounds is to mitigate burnout and fatigue."
Matthew Crawford-Jennings, DVM Class of 2022 "We appreciate the Wellness Rounds. It's important to take a break during the day and talk with Trish and other students, whether it's about concerns with a rotation or a class or even something not veterinary medicine-related. I just had a conversation with Trish the other week about a dilemma I was having. It was reassuring to have someone just enough outside of direct Veterinary Medicine to listen since there wasn't partiality in her opinion."
Clients can be demanding on veterinarians, compounding stress and burnout. World Veterinary Day is about love and appreciation for the practitioners keeping beloved pets safe while honoring the toll those contributions can take. The instances of suicide or suicidal thoughts are high in the veterinary profession, highlighting the need for more services that prioritize teaching veterinarians how to thrive.
Ariana Rahman, DVM Candidate, Class of 2023, worked with academic affairs to put on a Wellness Week.
Veterinary students recognize the importance of mental health and resilience and, with the support of the college administration have facilitated events and support that focus on wellness and strength.
One student initiative, Wellness Week, was organized by Ariana Rahman, DVM Class of 2023, who has a deep desire to improve mental health awareness. Last staged in 2016, Rahman worked with academic affairs to reinstate this week of student-run events, such as gratitude journaling groups, making bandannas for animal shelters, and emphasizing the importance of mental health in a less formal educational setting.
Rahman said, "I was part of a peer outreach group at my campus counseling center as an undergrad, which started my passion for mental health outreach. This was my last year to have the opportunity to start any wellness initiative here and I wanted to decrease the stigma around mental health, so I started sharing my ideas with the faculty. Most importantly, I did not want lectures. I didn't want it to be where students are sitting and being told, "You should be doing this and you should be doing that." I wanted this week to engage with the basic things that help us, like connection, joy, introspection, and vulnerability."
Rahman hopes to pass the baton to another student so that Wellness Weeks can continue after her time at the Veterinary College. Rahman said, "I'm interested in going into end-of-life care, such as a hospice or at-home euthanasia services. I realized that my passion does not necessarily stem from clinical medicine but the ability to connect with and help people through their pets. Making a very painful day in someone's life better through compassionate medicine sounds very rewarding to me, and I see myself continuing with mental health outreach."
Veterinarians, much like their patients, need proper tools and support to maintain their health and wellness. World Veterinarian Day invites an opportunity to spread awareness about the importance of continued wellness measures for students and practitioners.
Thank you to all our veterinarians and aspiring veterinarians!