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Feelings of inferiority ‘fuelling sector’s mental health crisis’
Learning to form positive client relationships in difficult situations leads to vets who are more resilient and have greater mental wellbeing.
Study reveals insights on mental health in the veterinary workforce

Vets feeling inferior to their co-workers when it comes to diagnosing and solving a case is fuelling the sector’s mental health crisis, according to new research.

The study, published in Vet Record, also suggests that encouraging a mindset that client-oriented behaviour is an attribute of a being a ‘good vet’ will help other vets improve their mental wellbeing.

Dr Elizabeth Armitage-Chan, a reader in veterinary education at the RVC, found examples of new graduates who value their client-oriented skills but couldn’t shake the feeling that a ‘better vet’ would offer a more academic or specialist approach to cases.

Her study revealed that, even when these graduates adapted a plan to fit their clients’ needs (such as being unable to afford advanced diagnostic tests), it conflicted with their beliefs that by reaching a specific diagnosis they would be doing a better job.

As such, Armitage argues, these vets chronically feel like a ‘bad vet’, even though they have demonstrated a high level of communication and clinical problem-solving skills.

Chan’s paper maintains that learning to form positive client relationships in difficult situations leads to vets who are more resilient and have greater mental wellbeing. However, further analysis of colleagues discussions and social media revealed a clear opinion of ‘the client is the enemy’.

She notes that, during a case with complex conflicting pet and pet owner needs, vets who choose to emphasise the client as difficult and unreasonable can receive temporary solace when talking to similarly-minded peers or by accessing social media. However, this thinking prevents them from developing client empathy, impacting their mental health negatively in the long-term.

Armitage-Chan therefore believes everyone in the profession has a responsibility to frame the strengths of the ‘good vet’ as being as much about the pet owner as of the pet.

She said: “It’s really important not to think of this as a message that we must all be ‘nicer’ to our clients. I have heard vets say clients’ limited finances or not wanting to put their pet through treatment have forced them to go against their ‘professional code’. This simply isn’t true: the RCVS Code of Conduct emphasises a need to work alongside clients to problem-solve these complex situations.

“Animal welfare can be supported through palliative or symptomatic treatments, which may be offered after difficult negotiations with very upset pet owners. This should therefore be a skill that is celebrated, rather than being considered not ‘gold standard’.”

She continued: “Being able to work with a client who is highly troubled by their financial limitations or the impending loss of a pet is difficult, particularly when these anxieties manifest as anger and accusation. The social media message of the client as the enemy obstructs this skill, as it becomes easier to rant about the ‘difficult client’.

“Unfortunately, where this becomes embedded, it prevents the career satisfaction that comes from working with clients.”

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Celebrity chefs urge public to get baking to support Cats Protection fundraiser

News Story 1
 In support of Cats Protection's Pawsome Afternoon Tea fundraiser, Masterchef winner Tim Anderson and Great British Bake Off star Kim-Joy have shared biscuit recipes to help keen bakers raise money for needy cats across April.

The celebrity chefs are both cat owners and have said that they hope this fundraiser will help to raise awareness of cats in need and the importance of adopting a cat, rather than buying one.

This is the fourth year Cats Protection has run its Pawsome Afternoon Tea campaign, which encourages people to hold tea parties, bake sales and fundraising events to help raise money for the charity.

To view the recipes and other fundraising resources please visit the Cats Protection website. 

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News Shorts
BEVA offering free membership to vet students

The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) is offering free membership to veterinary students. As part of a new initiative with the aim of encouraging more veterinary professionals into equine practice.

According to BEVA, less than one in ten veterinary students choose to work in equine practice. The association hopes that this initiative will provide insight into the field and the benefits of a career in equine medicine.

Benefits of membership include:
▪ access to a network of nearly 3,000 members
▪ special student rates to attend BEVA Congress
▪ online access to BEVA's Equine Veterinary Education (EVE) journal
▪ free access to the association's online learning platform
▪ free access to BEVA's practical veterinary apps
▪ exclusive discounts on a range of things from cinema tickets to grocery shopping.

BEVA will be releasing a series of short videos over the next few months from BEVA Council members, explaining what inspired them to work in equine practice.

Image (c) BEVA.