Kindness and respect the best medicine when visiting the vet

by Dr Phil Tucak on behalf of Hill's Pet Nutrition
01 Sep 2021

Veterinarians love helping you and your pet, however providing a high level of compassionate care can take its toll on veterinary staff - with the veterinary profession sadly having a high suicide rate that is up to four times higher than the general population. Showing kindness, patience and respect when visiting your veterinarian can help to ensure that everyone feels valued – that includes you, your pet and the vet!

Sometimes the high expectations that many people have for the care of their pet can unfortunately spill over into frustrations around the cost of veterinary services, waiting times for veterinary attention amidst the busyness of a veterinary hospital, and whether veterinarians are able to satisfy pet owners expectations around the treatment of a pet’s health condition.

In some cases this frustration can result in verbal or physical abuse against veterinary staff. This lack of respect causes stress, anxiety and burnout in veterinarians and vet nurses, who are already dealing with the other daily challenges of their veterinary roles, such as working long hours for often low pay, experiencing the euthanasia of animals and attending to complex clinical cases, all whilst managing a small business and its staff and finances.

Pandemic is a challenging time

During the COVID-19 pandemic veterinary practices have been considered an essential service, with practices adhering to social distancing requirements and remaining open during lockdowns. This has often meant that veterinarians are examining animals kerbside outside the vet hospital, or treating pets inside the vet hospital but without their owners present. Together with the additional hygiene protocols in place, these measures have all added additional time to already busy consulting periods.

Veterinary practices have also been busy dealing with an influx of pet patients as a result of people spending more time at home with their pets during lockdowns, or through more pets being adopted for companionship. Veterinary staff have been working hard to provide the best level of care to patients amidst this jump in workload.

The workload of veterinarians and veterinary nurses has also been exacerbated by a shortage of veterinary staff, due to state and international border restrictions impacting the recruitment of veterinary staff – along with the impact of many veterinarians leaving the profession due to a lack of work-life balance. These workforce factors are at risk of accelerating due to the increasing pressures on the veterinarians who remain in the profession providing expert care to all creatures great and small.

Financial burden

As highly qualified professionals, veterinarians have undertaken many years of study in order to provide health care services to animals of all description. Many vets have large study debts to pay off, and job salaries are often low despite the long hours and busy caseloads that are involved in the role. The perception that taking your pet to the vet is expensive is often fuelled by a misunderstanding of how much it costs to run a veterinary practice. As unlike in the world of human healthcare, there is no Medicare for pets to cover the bulk of medical treatment costs that many of us take for granted when accessing the human healthcare system.

With the many stressors that veterinary professionals face every day, pet owners can support veterinarians and veterinary nurses by showing kindness, patience and respect, ensuring that both you and your vet feel valued and respected.

How you can help

There are many ways in which you can make your experience at the vets a positive one for both yourself and the veterinary team. Ring ahead to book consultations, and alert staff if you’re on your way to the practice with a pet that requires emergency care. If you’re running late for an appointment, ring to update the clinic so that they can reschedule to accommodate both you and other pets.

Show patience and be prepared to wait when visiting the vet clinic – and remember that when you see the vet for a consultation, just prior to seeing your pet, the veterinarian may have just been treating a seriously ill pet, or they may have performed a euthanasia of someone’s much loved pet. So be kind, considerate and respectful during every interaction with the veterinary team.

Veterinarians and veterinary nurses bring expertise, experience and compassionate care when treating your pet, and through showing them respectful and considerate behaviour, together we can all make sure that a visit to the vet is the best it can be for everyone involved. Kindness and respect are definitely the best medicine when visiting the vets!

Sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition

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