As pet parents, we all want what’s best for our pets, but a less talked about aspect of pet health care is mental health in the veterinary industry. From navigating difficult ethical dilemmas and conflict to long, grueling working hours, the pet health profession, while rewarding, can be incredibly stressful at times and lead to higher rates of burnout. How can we—as pet parents—be the best clients we can be to support our veterinarians and build strong relationships with them, especially during these unprecedented times?
“Pet health wellness, even today, is all about open communication and collaboration,” Dr. Addie Reinhard, founder of MentorVet, a program for early career veterinary professionals, said.
Let’s unpack some of those key characteristics that define supportive clients. Additionally, if you want to hear more about Dr. Reinhard’s own experiences navigating burnout in the veterinary industry, as well as how that motivated her to start the MentorVet program, check out our “How Can You Be a Star Veterinary Client?” episode on the Mella Moment podcast.
Many veterinary clinics have had to implement changes to their workflow and policies to adapt to public health guidelines and Covid-19. Moreover, the shortage of veterinarians and increase in pet adoptions during the pandemic have also contributed to making these some of the busiest times they’ve seen. Dr. Reinhard suggests allocating extra time into the visit with the anticipation that you might have to wait; in emergency clinics, it’s not uncommon to see wait times of over three hours because there are so many cases.
It’s a stressful time for everyone, and being kind and courteous will go a long way. Random acts of kindness can also be a way to show our gratitude for the hard work our veterinarians are doing!
“Being patient and flexible allows us to give each patient the care and attention they deserve,” she said.
More generally, although it can be helpful to stay informed about the latest developments in pet health care, you should avoid self-diagnosing your pet or attempting at-home treatments based on incomplete or inaccurate information found online—if something seems wrong, getting a professional opinion is the quickest way to helping your pet feel better.
Finally, it’s always good to plan ahead to avoid being caught in a difficult pet health situation, be it in terms of scheduling or finances.
To stay on top of more routine matters like prescription refills, vaccinations, or checkups, it’s helpful to schedule appointments well in advance in case your clinic is busy when the time comes. Having pet health insurance and setting aside an emergency fund to cover any unexpected costs that arise in treatment can also go a long way in terms of preparation, and ensure your pet can get the help they need. Adopting a preventative approach is beneficial as well: it’s much better for your pet to see the vet sooner rather than later if you notice that they develop unusual symptoms, because waiting can often make the problem worse and more expensive to fix.
Ultimately, it’s about teamwork, honesty and respectful communication both ways. “Doing these things not only supports your veterinarian, but it also helps them provide better care for your pets,” Dr. Reinhard said.
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