When veterinary team members advocate for their own health and well-being, the pet receives 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.
Prioritize veterinary team health
Consider whether you agree or disagree with the following statements:
- I am a veterinary professional because I want to deliver the best possible pet care 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 determine the value a healthy veterinary team delivers. Throughout this article, we will circle back to this formula.
Let’s switch gears for the next questions and shift to personal and professional well-being.
Consider whether you agree or disagree with the following 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.
While these are not trick questions, you may have a difficult time answering them because your brain is coming up with excuses not to take care of yourself or you are choosing to tend to others first. At our core, we are caregivers; however, for veterinary team members to deliver the best care, we must fuel our tank and pour from a full cup!
Self-care is not selfish—it is essential! You are essential, and 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
A healthy veterinary team supports 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.
This may feel like a lot. Let’s be real: it takes conscious effort (personally and professionally) to pull all of these habits together, but it’s worth it.
Here are the nine dimensions of well-being fully defining a holistic life, personally, and professionally.
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: Seeking inner harmony and balance through self-reflection and exploration of your overall 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 that 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.
When assessing the benefits, there can be a parallel impact on elevating professionalism and positively impacting job satisfaction. As veterinary professionals, we prefer to work in a productive, properly staffed, and engaging environment.
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 wholistic standpoint, all interactions are elevated.
When a veterinary team is of sound mind, body, and spirit, a higher level of relational co-ordination within their healthcare system can positively impact patient outcomes. Healthier interactions with the clients, their team, and the community all circle back around to improved patient care.
A healthy work environment
Bear with me, as this one topic is easily a week-long workshop!
Maintaining a healthy work environment is achieved through intent as defined in an organization’s values, vision, and mission. These statements are a living, breathing pulse within an organization, supported by the leadership, held accountable by management, and 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. 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, executed with precision.
“Research from human medicine has shown a higher level of relational co-ordination within healthcare systems is associated with a number of positive outcomes for patients, healthcare staff, and the hospital,” notes Jason B. Coe, DVM, PhD, a professor and expert in veterinary clinical communication at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) in his article ‘Activating the Entire Veterinary Team to Achieve Optimal Veterinary Outcomes.’ “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.”1
Relational co-ordination in support of defining, designing, building, and maintaining a healthy work environment and veterinary team may positively impact the delivery of patient and care and outcomes.
Best for the patient?
Now to bring all this together. Drawing from your own experiences, as well as information learned from this article and beyond, answer the following questions:
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 veterinary team health
Now that you have the information 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 that commitment to elevating patient care. (I understand this is easier typed than it is to bring to fruition on a team, but you must start somewhere!)
In a previously published column (‘How best to measure team well-being’), I offered tips on how to establish goals with veterinary team well-being, moving Key Performance Indicators (KPI) into the 21st century.
This quote answers the column’s headline:
“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.”2
Measurable, healthy activities include (but are not limited to):
- Getting eight hours of sleep
- Writing in a positivity journal (also known as ‘gratitude practice’)
- 30 minutes of non-work-related movement (e.g. 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 colouring sheets, pencil crayons, decks of cards, bubbles, playdough, 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. Her most current role includes outreach specialist for Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice. Rose can be reached via Rebecca@LapofLove.com.
1 Coe, DVM, PhD, Jason B. “Activating the Entire Veterinary Team,” https://www.ovma.org/assets/1/6/Coe-Activating_the_Entire_Veterinary_Team.pdf
2 Mikita, MS, CVT, Denise and Rebecca Rose, CVT How Best to Measure Team Wellbeing, Veterinary Practice News, Nov. 2019, https://www.veterinarypracticenews.ca/how-best-to-measure-team-well-being