If members of an animal health team 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 and 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 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 aligning 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 (well, you get the picture) best for the veterinary team?
4) How is this best for the veterinary hospital or organization?
I like formulas. I find they help 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.
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 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. This 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.
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 solid network of support based on mutual trust, respect, and compassion
5) Emotional—Identifying and managing the full range of your emotions, and, importantly, 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
Are you truly serious about building and maintaining a healthy workplace? Complete the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Workplace Wellbeing Certificate Program on the AVMA’s website.
Elevated professionalism—and patient outcomes
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 an environment that is productive, properly staffed, and engaged for co-workers.
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 (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, 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. 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, executed with precision.
“Research from human medicine has shown 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,” notes 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 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 article:
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 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! Choose one pillar from the previous nine list, fully define the commitment to one creating a new team habit is support of body, mind, or spirit.
A previous VTI column, “How best to measure team well-being,” gave tips 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.”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 non-work-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, 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 healthy 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.
- Nine Dimensions of Wellbeing; Holistic Health for the Veterinarian, AVMA blog, March 2018, https://www.avma.org/blog/nine-dimensions-wellbeing-holistic-health-veterinarian
- AVMA Workplace Wellbeing Certificate Program https://axon.avma.org/local/catalog/view/product.php?productid=22
- Coe, DVM, PhD, Jason B. “Activating the Entire Veterinary Team,” https://www.ovma.org/assets/1/6/Coe-Activating_the_Entire_Veterinary_Team.pdf
- Mikita, MS, CVT, Denise and Rebecca Rose, CVT How Best to Measure Team Wellbeing, Veterinary Practice News, Nov. 2019, https://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/how-best-to-measure-team-well-being/