Business Matters

Creating a workplace environment that prioritizes employee wellness matters. This page offers tips and strategies that will help your practice reach its goals while supporting employee health, wellness, and growth.

Be Mindful of Others’ Wellness

Your colleagues may be experiencing mental health challenges, yet still be functioning well. It’s important to recognize that individuals have different needs and stressors. Veterinarians at different stages of life and career also face unique challenges.

Make sure your team members are aware that there are self-assessment tools and resources available:

Mental Health Meter

  • This tool, from the Canadian Mental Health Association, offers a general check-in of how you’re doing.

Professional Quality of Life Assessment

  • The American Veterinary Medical Association created this tool for assessing yourself for burnout and compassion fatigue.

Checkup From the Neck Up

  • The Mood Disorder Association of Ontario offers this simple tool to self-screen for anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders.

You can also use a tracking program or diary to monitor and understand your own mental health. Here are a few great tools to get you started:

Increase your own awareness to recognize the signs of distress in your team:

Establish and Maintain Boundaries For Yourself and For the Team

It’s important to protect down-time/off hours and discuss it with the team to ensure everyone is aware of when you are available and when you are taking time for yourself. Record overtime for hourly and salaried employees to ensure that extra hours are being shouldered equally across the team. Ensure one team member is not consistently covering for others and that everyone has a role in helping cover or trade shifts when things come up. Have a formal policy regarding sick or personal days, and have a plan for coverage when needed. You should not feel guilty for taking time to care for yourself, nor should your employees.

It is also important for workplaces to create moral boundaries2. Discuss the situations and/or procedures you are not comfortable with and plan accordingly with your staff to minimize ethical conflict.  

Tips for setting and maintaining boundaries:

Team Management

There are many layers to team management, so let’s peel back a few of the important ones that can contribute to mental wellness. 

For more information:

Interested in an Ontario veterinarian’s perspective on this topic?
Check out this podcast featuring Dr. Sue Dorland – Building an Excellent Business Starts With Building the Best Team.

Healthy Staff = Healthy Business

The mental health of the veterinary team greatly impacts your practice and the quality of care provided to clients and patients. Client satisfaction and communication are major drivers of clinic profit. When your team members are happy, productive, appreciated, and valued, they will strive to do their best work, which will be reflected in patient and client care.

Business impacts of burnout include:

  • Increased staff turnover9
  • High number of sick leave/sick days
  • Reduced staff productivity
  • Poor client communication 
  • Reduced client satisfaction
  • Reduced level of patient care10

So what can you do? Here are a few suggestions:

Download an infosheet on reducing ethical conflict

Reduce Ethical Conflict

Evidence-based, welfare-friendly medical protocols can build trust between staff members and reduce disputes or tension when managing cases. A starting point may be to check out some of the excellent protocols already available:

  • “Fear Free” techniques help manage aggressive or anxious patients, and improve safety for the whole team:  Fear Free Pets
  • “Cat Friendly” techniques reduce stress for cats, owners, and staff: Cat Friendly Practices
  • The American Animal Hospital Association provides guidelines for a variety of treatments and procedures, all developed by veterinary experts in the relevant field: What are AAHA Guidelines?

Insurance. Promoting pet insurance can reduce ethical conflicts with clients, as well as within the team. The majority of small animal practitioners feel that client economic limitations affect their ability to provide the desired care for their patients on a daily basis11. At the same time, only ¼ – ⅓ routinely discuss costs and pet insurance at healthy pet appointments8. Ask every new puppy or kitten owner if they’ve considered pet insurance. You can also delegate the discussion — front desk can ask clients if their pet is insured, as they arrive for their appointment.

Rescue policy. Have a clinic policy regarding rescue cases. For example, set up an Angel Fund, or allow each staff member a small budget towards a case that pulls at their heartstrings as part of their benefits package.

Euthanasia policy. Discuss euthanasia policies12 and criteria openly with all staff (veterinarians, technicians, assistants, reception) — these cases are often a source of strong emotion in the team13. Although the staff should not necessarily question the decision of the client & veterinarian, a frank discussion (at a team meeting, for example) about policies can go a long way toward reducing moral stress and building trust. In a psychologically safe environment, team members can speak up and ask questions about situations that do not align with their values.

Social Media: Don’t be scared, be prepared

We all get negative feedback, but when provided publicly it can be particularly challenging. See our notes above about dealing with negative feedback. The OVMA has prepared a Social Media Response Toolkit, which outlines best practices and guidelines for preparing a social media strategy/policy for your clinic. 

Download an infosheet on how to address social media