A healthy team is best for patient care

When staff feels cared for and respected, they perform better while working

When staff feels cared for and respected, they perform better while working. This translates into better relationships with patients.
When staff feels cared for and respected, they perform better while working. This translates into better relationships with patients.

When veterinary team members have advocated for their own health and well-being, then pets receive the best patient care. This is reflected in job satisfaction, higher team retention, and the delivery of consistent, compassionate veterinary care.

When working with veterinary teams, prioritizing veterinary services, professionalism, and patient care, building a healthy work environment builds strength in these pillars. 

Prioritizing and advocating for veterinary team health and well-being

Do you agree or disagree with these statements?

  • I am a veterinary professional because I want to deliver the best pet care possible to each patient under my care.
  • I am a veterinary professional partnering with clients to deliver the best pet care possible.

When coaching and working with veterinary professionals, I often use the formula listed below to determine how to move forward in implementing a new system or protocol, purchase new equipment, develop job descriptions, or align with the organization’s values, vision, and mission:

1) How is this (system, equipment, job duty, fill in the blank _____) best for the patient?

2) How is this (system, equipment, job duty, fill in the blank _____) best for the client?

3) How is this (you get the picture) best for the veterinary team?

4) How is this best for the veterinary hospital or organization?

I like formulas. It helps to consistently measure and determine a value. This series of questions can help to determine the value a healthy veterinary team delivers. I will circle back to this formula.

Switching gears for the next questions to personal and professional well-being.

Do you agree or disagree with these statements (without any excuses of any kind)?

  • I am simply unable to pour from an empty cup.
  • I am unable to run on an empty tank.

These are not trick questions, although you may have had a difficult time answering because your brain was coming up with excuses not to take care of yourself or tending to others first. At our core, we are caregivers. However, for veterinary team members to deliver the best veterinary care we must fuel our tank and pour from a full cup.

Self-care is not selfish, it is essential! You are essential. You deliver essential patient care! You heal pets and people.

Holistic in body, mind, and spirit

Veterinary team health and well-being supports the whole team in a holistic manner, body, mind, and spirit (foundational pillars). A holistic approach to veterinary team well-being includes support, empathy, and understanding in the importance of these healthy pillars.

A healthy veterinary team does support self-care in mind, body, spirit, and much more! Financial sustainability and stewardship, occupational safety, building strong social networks, eating well, drinking adequate amounts of water, celebrating good sleeping habits, and mindfulness. That may feel like a lot.

Let’s be real, it takes conscious effort (personally and professionally) to pull all of these habits together. It’s worth it! You are worth it!

Here are the nine dimensions of well-being fully defining a holistic life, personally, and professionally, from the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) blog, Nine Dimensions of Wellbeing for a Holistic Healthy Veterinarian1.

1) Occupational—Being engaged in work that brings you personal satisfaction and aligns with your values, goals, and lifestyle.

2) Intellectual—Participating in learning activities that foster critical thinking and expand your world view.

3) Spiritual well-being—Seeking inner harmony and balance through self-reflection and exploration of your role in the universe.

4) Social—Surrounding yourself with a network of support based on mutual trust, respect, and compassion.

5) Emotional—Identifying and managing the full range of your emotions, and seeking help when necessary.

6) Physical—Getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, engaging in adequate exercise, getting regular medical check-ups, and practicing other healthy habits

7) Financial—Being cognizant of your personal finances and adhering to a budget that enables you to reach your financial goals.

8) Creative—Participating in diverse cultural and artistic experiences to give you a deeper appreciation for the world around you.

9) Environmental—Recognizing your interconnectedness with nature, and taking an active role in preserving, protecting, and improving the environment.

Advantages of a healthy work environment

Pulled directly from the AVMA’s Team Wellness: The Value of Investment (VOI) in supporting veterinary team well-being:

“Raising awareness is the first step toward building a culture of wellness among your team. As with any business investment, integrating activities into the workplace will require a commitment of time, money, and/or resources. A small investment can have great returns when you consider the return on value. A commitment of team wellness will have a positive impact on your organization and the bottom line.”

The AVMA Setting Wellbeing Workplace Program2 states:

Positive team impact

  • Improved employee morale
  • Improved employee loyalty
  • Reduction in organizational conflict

Positive customer impact

  • Improved client experience
  • Higher customer satisfaction

Positive business impact

  • Increased productivity
  • Lower employee turnover
  • Decreased paid and unpaid sick days
  • Fewer work-related accidents
  • Improved day-to-day operations

Professionalism and patient outcomes elevated

When assessing the benefits there can be a parallel impact on elevating professionalism and positively impacting job satisfaction. As a veterinary professional, we prefer to work in an environment that is productive, properly staffed, and co-workers are engaged.

Now to make the leap that healthy team members deliver at the top of their game, bringing their best body, mind, and spirit to patient care. Under those circumstances, patient outcomes improve. When a veterinary team member can engage in relationships in a healthier manner, from a holistic standpoint, all interactions are elevated.

When a veterinary team is of sound mind, body, and spirit (to include adequately paid, safe, socially connected, mentally healthy) then a higher level of relational coordination within their healthcare system can positively impact patient outcomes. Healthier interactions with the clients, their team, and the community all circles back around to improved patient care. 

Maintaining a healthy work environment

Bear with me, as this one topic is easily a week-long workshop! Maintaining a healthy work environment is through intent as defined in the organization’s values, vision, and mission. These valuable statements are a living, breathing, pulse within the organization supported by the leadership, held accountable by management, understood, and brought to life by everyone on the team, in every interaction (between team members, clients, and patients).

A healthy work environment is fully defined with the input and collaboration of the team. Systems are put in place to make the workplace safe, rewarding, sustainable, and healthy. Clearly outlining gaps in what is and what can be (vision in health and well-being), with strategies to morph and flex, driven by the team, can be executed with precision.

“Research from human medicine has shown that a higher level of relational coordination within healthcare systems is associated with a number of positive outcomes for patients, healthcare staff, and the hospital. Therefore, in order to truly maximize the quality and outcome of care for its patients, veterinary medicine needs to consider the role and function of all relationships within a veterinary care system including veterinarian-to-client, support staff-to-client and veterinarian-to-support staff,” says Jason B. Coe, DVM, PhD, in his article, “Activating the Entire Veterinary Team to Achieve Optimal Veterinary Outcomes.”3

Relational coordination in support of defining, designing, building, and maintaining a healthy work environment and a veterinary team may positively impact the delivery of patient and care and outcomes.

Best for the patient?

Now to bring all this together. Answer the following questions from your own experience, possibly studies you have read, and this conversation.

1) How is a healthy veterinary team best for the patient?

2) How is a healthy veterinary team best for the client?

3) How is a healthy veterinary team best for the veterinary team?

4) How is a healthy veterinary team best for the veterinary hospital or organization?

Measuring and elevating veterinary team health

Now that you have the information in defining the benefits and advantages of a healthy veterinary team in the delivery of patient care, identify the level of commitment you and your team has in well-being at this moment and begin bridging to elevating patient care. I understand this is easier typed than it is to bring to fruition with a team, but you must start somewhere! Choose one pillar, fully define the commitment to one of the nine pillars.

In a previous Veterinary Team Insights article, readers learn “How Best to Measure Team Well-Being.” Time to check it out to learn more in establishing goals in veterinary team well-being, moving Key Performance Indicators (KPI) into the 21st century. A quote answering the question: How to track team well-being?

“These measurements (in well-being and healthy work environment) need to be defined with the team’s input, thus putting team well-being in the spotlight. In addition, tracking participation and recording the impact on overall hospital performance is important. Jamie’s team came up with the following six steps to design a team well-being-focused program in their real-life veterinary hospital team environment.”4

Measurable, healthy activities include, but not limited, to:

  • Getting eight hours of sleep
  • Writing in a positivity journal (also known as gratitude practice)
  • 30 minutes of nonwork-related movement (a walk with the dog, going to the gym, etc.)
  • A five-minute visit to the “rest and recharge” basket, which can be filled with coloring sheets, colored pencils or crayons, decks of cards, bubbles, therapy dough or sand, meditation ideas, etc.)
  • Drinking water equivalent to half your body weight in ounces every day.

How will your team discuss and implement? You and your team are essential. You deliver essential care. It is critical to the delivery of veterinary patient care your team is supported in personal and professional health and well-being.

Rebecca Rose, CVT, certified career coach, founder, and president at CATALYST Veterinary Professional Coaches, has a diverse background in the veterinary community. She has worked in and managed clinics, collaborates with industry partners, and facilitates engaging team workshops. Her most current role includes outreach specialist for Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice. Rose’s enthusiasm for professional development in veterinary medicine is contagious, as she encourages and supports veterinary teams in reaching their highest potential. She can be reached via Rebecca@LapofLove.com.


  1. Nine Dimensions of Wellbeing; Holistic Health for the Veterinarian, AVMA blog, March 2018, https://www.avma.org/blog/nine-dimensions-wellbeing-holistic-health-veterinarian
  2. AVMA Workplace Wellbeing Certificate Program https://axon.avma.org/local/catalog/view/product.php?productid=22
  3. Activating the Entire Veterinary Team, Jason B. Coe, DVM, PhD, https://www.ovma.org/assets/1/6/Coe-Activating_the_Entire_Veterinary_Team.pdf
  4. How Best to Measure Team Wellbeing, Denise Mikita, MS, CVT, Rebecca Rose, CVT, Veterinary Practice News, Nov 2019, https://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/how-best-to-measure-team-well-being

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