Veterinarian study indicates progress in addressing mental health challenges

Source: Farm Progress. The original article is posted here.

Veterinarian study indicates progress in addressing mental health challenges
Merck Animal Health has released findings of its comprehensive Veterinary Wellbeing Study conducted in collaboration with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The latest study, which examined the wellbeing and mental health of U.S. veterinarians and support teams, underscored a positive trend in veterinarian practices and professionals taking a more proactive approach toward mental health. This is the first comprehensive study on veterinary wellbeing following the global pandemic and its impact on veterinary professionals.

Similar to previous benchmark studies (2017, 2019 and 2021), the goal of the fourth Veterinary Wellbeing Study was to identify and explore the state of veterinary professionals' mental health and wellbeing in an effort to bring awareness to the challenges veterinarians and support teams face and more importantly, how they are able to manage them with the support received from partners such as Merck Animal Health and AVMA. Taking a broader focus this year, the study expanded its scope to examine the mental health and wellbeing of veterinary team members – including veterinary technicians and office managers – with nearly five times more responses from these positions than the 2021 survey.

"There are many positives coming out of the study, including high levels of job satisfaction and pride in work across veterinary teams. This must be balanced with the understanding that there are also challenges within the veterinary profession, including a shortage of qualified veterinary team members as well as burdensome student debt that causes stress," said Christine Royal, DVM, vice president of Merck’s companion animal and equine business unit. "It is encouraging to see an increase in practices and professionals that are addressing team culture, wellbeing, and mental health. We remain committed to advocating for and providing resources to veterinary professionals no matter the individual's role or title."

AVMA President Rena Carlson, DVM, commented: "We are committed to bringing critical awareness to the challenges that veterinary professionals face and to ensure they have the appropriate tools and resources to help support mental health and wellbeing. We understand that to sustain the health of animals, we need to ensure the wellbeing of their caretakers. The results of the latest Veterinary Wellbeing study indicate our efforts in conjunction with Merck Animal Health are working and resulting in healthier and more satisfying careers for veterinary teams. We look forward to continuing to provide resources for many years to come."

Increase in mental health resources

Almost three-quarters of veterinary professionals express personal satisfaction with their career, but there are still factors they are concerned about, including high exhaustion, work-life balance, and shortage of vets, all of which can contribute to a feeling of burnout. Results indicate that more veterinarians who needed mental health support received outpatient treatment and counseling for mental health challenges in 2023. Moreover, there has been a substantial increase in clinics supporting their team's mental health and emotional wellbeing, with results showing that 38% of clinics now offer an employee assistance program (EAP) as opposed to 31% in 2021 and 27% in 2019.

When it comes to clinic culture, most practicing veterinarians agree that there is a high degree of trust within their organization, their input is valued, there is sufficient time for each appointment to provide high-quality patient care, and there is candid and open communication among team members, which all contribute to a positive work environment. However, the results indicate that clinics have the opportunity to make improvements by openly discussing wellbeing and mental health in team meetings, with only 36% of veterinary teams finding that this happens somewhat or to a great extent.

Pride and satisfaction in the profession

While veterinarians and support teams – particularly those early in their career – experience stress and burnout, there are many aspects of the job they enjoy – unsurprisingly, including those related to helping animals. An overwhelming number of veterinarians (98%) and veterinary team members (92%) note that they are invested in their work and take pride in doing a good job. More than 80% also believe the work they do makes a positive contribution to other peoples' lives.

Even with these results indicating an overall satisfaction in the profession, there is a perception among veterinary teams that it might not be the same for their colleagues, with less than 50% of veterinarians saying that others in the profession are satisfied with their careers. This could indicate the continued need for open communication about wellbeing and the resources available to perpetuate more positive conversation and pride in the work that veterinary teams do every day. Fortunately, over three-quarters of veterinarians and veterinary team members cite having a warm, friendly, and supportive relationship with their co-workers, a critical foundation for this important dialogue to advance.

Encouraging conversation about prioritizing mental health

Merck Animal Health has prioritized understanding the challenges that face veterinarians and veterinary technicians by issuing this important study every two years since 2017. The results continue to provide insight on the progress made and the areas that need additional attention. Key initiatives such as MentorVet, a growing entity that creates evidence-based programming to empower individuals to thrive within veterinary medicine, help facilitate guidance and support for veterinary professionals and continue to play a crucial role in fostering a supportive environment within the industry. To date, more than 350 veterinary professionals have been supported with full scholarships awarded by Merck Animal Health to participate in MentorVet's programming (MentorVet Tech and MentorVet Leap), helping to bridge the gap when it comes to the wellbeing of veterinary professionals.

“Our research indicates that MentorVet programming reduces burnout and improves overall wellbeing on average for veterinary professionals, and our work is made possible through collaboration," said Addie Reinhard, DVM, MS, and founder and CEO of MentorVet. "Merck Animal Health has demonstrated an unwavering, longstanding commitment to support the mental health and wellbeing of the veterinary profession through their research and their long-term support of MentorVet and other wellbeing initiatives."

In addition, Merck Animal Health is an educational partner for MentorVet Connect, a collaboration between the AVMA and MentorVet that brings the power and support of a structured evidence-based mentor program to newly graduated AVMA members free of charge, beginning with the classes of 2018-2023.

The joining of forces and organizations helps drive not only the creation of resources and mentorship, but also the adoption of them among veterinarian professionals. To learn more about Merck Animal Health's support of veterinary professionals and their mental wellbeing, visit For veterinary professionals looking to take advantage of the AVMA's Workplace Wellbeing program, visit

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