Remember when your dream job was to become a vet?
It may have been because you genuinely liked animals and wanted to care for them, or maybe it was because you had an interest in science and medicine. Perhaps it was because you wanted to help and educate others in the care of their pets and livestock. Whatever the reason, it motivated you enough to get through years of study and come out the other end with the necessary qualifications and a desire to make a difference.
The big question is, is being a vet still your dream job? And if not, why not?
It’s no secret that the rate of suicide amongst veterinarians is well above the norm. Factors that can contribute to a downward slide into depression include long working hours, the demands of keeping up with ever-changing technology and scientific breakthroughs, dealing with suffering animals and having to end their lives on a regular basis, economic factors such as paying off high student loans, and of course, working with traumatised pet owners in a compassionate, caring manner.
If it any wonder why so many vets suffer from burnout?
Psychologists have identified three distinct signs of ‘caregiver burnout’.
1: Emotional exhaustion – where the tank is empty and there is just no more to give.
2: Depersonalisation – where negativity and hostile feelings toward our work, our patients and our lives in general become the norm.
3: Feelings of lowered self esteem – where we may feel as though what we have to offer is of no value anymore, that nothing we can do will make a difference.
Burnout is common and it’s not easy to overcome these feelings of hopeless inadequacy, but it must be done if we are to recover a sense of optimism and joy about our chosen profession.
So how do we fall back in love with our job?
Balancing our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing is the best (and hardest) way to do it.
Some simple tips to achieve balance include:
1: Maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of exercise and sleep really does work wonders. (Isn’t that what we’re always telling our clients?)
2: Practising mindfulness and meditation will help free the mind of negative self-talk and needless worry about what happened today and what tomorrow might bring.
3: Taking control of your working conditions and environment – whether it’s cutting back on hours, redecorating the office, or focusing on the parts of the job that you love.
4: Finding a support network and/or mentor – and we’re not talking about hanging out with colleagues and having a moan. Focusing on the negative aspects of the job won’t make them go away, it will just reinforce them.
5: Get a life outside work. If you don’t have time, make time. Reconnecting with friends and family, doing something fun and physical, being compassionate to yourself, will make all the difference.
It’s time to create new possibilities.
Now, remember why you wanted to be a vet? Try and get that feeling back. You owe it to yourself.
Dr Sue Samuelsson is a caring and dynamic vet in the Northern Territory, Australia who has had a profound effect on many remote communities around East Arnhem Land. She is the creator of i-Vet, an innovate online service designed for pet owners. Away from her busy schedule she enjoys catching barramundi in the Daly River.