Stress and burnout
Okay. STOP! Right now. Just stop what you are doing and take a moment to reflect on these things.....
How have you been sleeping? Are you having trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, or waking up in the early hours and not being able to get back to sleep? Are you finding it hard to concentrate on things, or feel snappy and irritable? Are you feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, or perhaps started to drink more than usual (or started drinking for the first time in a long time). How is your appetite? Do you still have one? Are you having thoughts of feeling incompetent, or feeling worried, sad, or fatigued? When you think about going to work, do you feel a sense of dread and cynicism?
Do you realise that all these symptoms are signs of stress and burnout? Yes that's right - they are, and chances are, if you found yourself saying yes to any of these, you could be stressed and/or burnt out and not even realise it.
Stop thinking "it's just a phase, it'll pass", or "I have to just suck it up, everyone feels like this", or "I'm just having a bad week - it'll be okay next week". When you are stressed and burnt-out, the symptoms don't just disappear by avoiding them, wishful thinking, or simply hoping they will go away. If you don't seek help for these things, there's a good chance they will get worse - and unfortunately, like many of your colleagues in the profession, this includes the path to suicide.
Wouldn't you prefer to feel in control of your life and psychological wellbeing permanently, where you actually feel you can cope with whatever the day ahead brings? Imagine how it will feel when a difficult client walks through the door and you can handle it confidently and assertively, rather than passively and suffering in silence and feeling resentful. Consider how great it will be to know you can have those dreaded conversations about money with your customers without it leaving you feeling sick and abused. Think about how it will feel when you stop feeling so bogged down with negative and unhelpful thoughts, and when you can acknowledge them easily without buying into them and letting them control you. What about the liberation of being able to choose a more helpful approach that doesn't leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed and wondering why the heck you are still working in this profession. Sadly, many of your colleagues are leaving the profession to pursue other vocations, or for an increasing number, choosing suicide as a permanent way out. Don't be the next statistic.
Do something proactive and become a positive role model for your peers, colleagues, and successors. It's time for a change in the veterinary industry, and it all begins with YOU. Yes YOU! Don't become a statistic for the wrong reasons - instead, be proactive and join me in taking a stand for veterinarian wellbeing.
Come on. Do it. I can't do it alone, but together we can make a change and save lives - after all, it might just be YOUR life that is saved!
About Dr Nadine Hamilton
As a leading authority on veterinary wellbeing, Dr Hamilton helps veterinary professionals get on top of stress and conflict to avoid burnout and suicide, and also works with practice managers and owners to increase wellbeing, productivity, and retention in the workplace. Additionally, she provide workshops to small and large groups within the private and corporate sectors, and speaks at conferences and symposiums both nationally and internationally.
Her book "Coping with Stress and Burnout as a Veterinarian - An Evidence-Based Solution to Increase Wellbeing" was released in March 2019 through Australian Academic Press, and is already making a positive impact within the profession - both here in Australia and internationally.
As an advocate for the veterinary profession, Dr Hamilton founded "Love Your Pet Love Your Vet" and partnered with Royal Canin to reduce stigma in veterinary professionals seeking help, raising awareness within the community about the realities of working in the profession, and providing psychological and educational support to veterinary professionals.