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Pushing Past the 4D’s of Vet Med – Debt, Death, Demeaning Owners & Depression

Too many stories today lack compassion. The world is frustrated, burnt out, too busy, too tired, too selfish to care. When you hear stories of veterinarians being berated by owners who had to wait 25 minutes to be seen because the doctor was too busy triaging a critical patient, you have to wonder what the world has come to.

Veterinarians have not been taught how to handle interactions with owners that start out like this and emerge from them calm and intact. That’s a critical gap because they face the 4D’s every day – debt, unnecessary death, demeaning owners, and often depression. Top that off with threats of cyberbullying and the demands of trying to keep a business afloat and pressure can be overwhelming.

A 2014 CDC study that surveyed more than 11,000 U.S. veterinarians in 2014 found that 9% had current serious psychological distress, 31% had experienced depressive episodes, and 17% had experienced suicidal ideation since leaving veterinary school.

Having a greater online presence going into 2021 is expected, especially since the pandemic made it a non-option. Even more than that, though, patients expect a seamless digital experience. That means a functioning and well-run website, easily accessible online tools, and connecting patients to your practice digitally.

It’s the last finding that is most disturbing – that more than one in six veterinarians has contemplated suicide since graduation. While experts debate the reasons that account for it-from the innate personality traits of those attracted to the profession, to the relentless demands placed on women practitioners — one thing is true: even one is too many.

 A powerful truism many veterinarians may never consider could potentially save lives or at least spare professional anguish: You can fire clients. Abuse is abuse. We don’t tolerate it in our daily business dealings or from the people we employ. And we needn’t tolerate abuse from our clients.  When disrespect, anger, and entitlement exact an emotional toll on you and your staff that cannot be endured, the relationship is over.  

So how do we equip practicing and prospective veterinarians with skills to better care for themselves?  Groups such as “Not One More Vet” which currently has over 26 thousand members provide a safe space for veterinarians to gain support from colleagues for many of the profession’s challenges.

Veterinary schools need to better prepare students for the emotional toll of euthanasia. The psychological toll of being “Dr. Death” is enormous and can leave veterinarians feeling isolated with no time to grieve or process the loss appropriately. Alternative solutions to euthanizing healthy animals must be developed. These include building a network of fosters and local shelters to which owners may surrender healthy animals.

It is also time for companies in the animal health space to sponsor actionable programs to help veterinarians deal with the psychological stress that arises from running a business… Veterinarians need to understand price structure, competitive analysis, market tolerance, basic marketing, and financial skills to meet the daily challenges of practice.

Download the infographic to learn more about current statistics and get valuable resources veterinarians and their staff can use to assist in these efforts.

Click to Download (PDF)

Help others in need by spreading the message and sharing it with your networks on social, #NOMV.

If you or someone you know is in crisis:

Connect with a Partner Who Knows the Industry

After a challenging year, the value of having a partner who understands both the veterinary industry and how to help businesses flourish is even more valuable. For a business and marketing strategist who is deep-rooted in the medical industry, look no further than Connect Veterinary Consulting.

Ready to take the next step with your marketing? We’re here to help. Get the conversation started today with a free consult.