10 Mental Health Tips for Stressed Vets and Nurses

The vet industry can be tough and protecting the mental health of you and your team can be a constant challenge. Here are 10 of our favourite tips for supporting the mental wellbeing of your veterinary practice. 


Use that inner voice to your advantage

Vets and nurses are highly intelligent, highly motivated people. Unfortunately, that can also mean that they’re highly self-critical and can struggle to give themselves credit when credit is due.

Resist the urge to tell yourself to ‘harden up’ or that ‘there are plenty of people out there doing it tougher than you’ – all of us struggle from time to time and our struggles are real.

Tame that inner voice and use it to your advantage. It may seem corny, but take time every day to congratulate yourself for your achievements, no matter how small, and to remind yourself of the things you’re thankful for.

Instead of chastising yourself when things go wrong, treat everything as a learning opportunity. Instead of beating yourself up, accept that everyone makes mistakes and that every mistake gives us an opportunity to learn and improve.


Practice gratitude and forgiveness

A stressful working environment is made that much worse when there’s tension between team members. Thanking others for doing a good job and forgiving them when they slip up can make a huge difference to your outlook and theirs.


Consider charging more

Many vets are struggling with booming demand and limited resources. It can be a difficult decision to put your prices up, but struggling to keep your head above water is not the answer.

Consider raising your prices, either permanently or until demand subsides. This may or may not tamp down the pressure – but even if you’re still flat out, the improved profitability will help in other areas, such as staff recruitment and retention.


Try not to overextend your practice

Yes, it can be difficult to say no to new clients (or, more specifically, new furry friends), but if your practice is at capacity, this can be necessary. There simply aren’t enough vets in the world right now – you burning yourself out is not going to fix that.

Recruiting good vets and nurses is really difficult, so focus on retaining (and not burning out) the team that you have.

First, make sure you’re profitable (see above) then implement strict rules about how many clients and patients you and your team can reasonably see each day.


Choose when and how you’ll donate

Most practices will donate products and services to a good cause. That’s the nature of the industry and the people within it. Many vets give too much, however, and this can result in increased stress and lower profitability.

Choose when and how you’re going to donate. Decide in advance when and how much you can afford and allow for unexpected circumstances (acute patients arriving at short notice, etc.). 

It’s difficult to say no, but you are doing your clients, patients and the community a favour by remaining viable.


Automate your practice

Automate as many repetitive and mundane tasks as possible to make you and your team more efficient. Accept bookings online (consider only accepting bookings online if it would free people up from the phones), automate reminders and use consult and sales templates to minimise the amount of data entry you need to do each day. 

This will help to reduce stress levels and, as you’ll be doing less mundane stuff, it will make work more fun. As an added benefit, you’ll reduce missed appointments, missed charges, etc.

Systems like Panacea, our cloud-based veterinary practice software, allow you to automate the mundane daily tasks and simplify your workload. Click here to sign up for your complimentary demo and 30-day free trial.


Move difficult customers on

We all know how difficult it is to deal with customers who are rude, threatening or bullying. These customers are not only bad for your mental health but, because they’re often the first to dispute a bill and to badmouth you to others, they’re typically bad for business also.

Move them on.

There’s no shortage of clients and patients who need your services and who you can build positive relationships with.

Don’t put up with bad behaviour and never let a client blackmail you into treating their animal – this only encourages the bad behaviour.

While you’re at it, ask yourself if there’s anyone on your team who’s a negative influence. It’s hard enough to deal with difficult customers – it’s that much harder if you have a bully on your own team.


Find time out of the clinic

Yes, this does apply to you, as well as the rest of your team. Schedule time when you’re out of the clinic and your phone is turned off. Do something non-work-related, even if it means doing nothing at all.


Check in with others

Checking in on your team, and others within the industry, is not only likely to be beneficial for them, but it can also help improve your own mental health along the way.

Go deeper than simply asking ‘how are you?’. Put time aside to have meaningful conversations and to share your own experiences. 

If you think someone is struggling, then be prepared to ask direct questions about their state of mind.  Don’t be afraid to ask about their stress levels, whether they’ve been having dark or troubling thoughts or even if they’ve been considering self-harm. If you suspect that someone is struggling then don’t be afraid to encourage them to seek help – often our fear of awkwardness or embarrassment prevents us from offering help when it’s needed most.


Above all, reach out for help

Veterinary professionals, who can be better at providing help than at seeking it for themselves, are often reluctant to reach out for help. The reasons for this can be complex and many, but it’s important to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Approximately 20% of women and 15% of men will experience depression and a quarter of us will experience anxiety in our lifetimes. Evidence suggests that depression and anxiety rates are higher within the vet profession than within the general population.

Even as a trained medical professional it can be difficult to recognise the signs of depression and anxiety within yourself, particularly if you’re constantly on the run.

Check in with yourself regularly to assess how well you’re coping and whether you’re displaying symptoms of anxiety or depression. Use reputable online tools to assess yourself regularly. People are often surprised at their own results.

Most important, if you need help then don’t hesitate to reach out for it. 

Both the New Zealand Vet Council and the Australian Veterinary Association provide excellent support and resources and your local vet industry body is likely to do the same if you live elsewhere.

If you’re experiencing anxiety or depression then seek medical help. All vet professionals know how important it is for animal owners to seek veterinary advice early and often. The same goes for you – don’t ‘battle on’ see your GP and get help when you need it.

Creating a Sustainable Veterinary Practice

Climate change is possibly the biggest threat to humanity and to animals we’ve ever faced. This is why it’s so important for us all to act now to reduce the environmental impact of our businesses on the world.

At Panacea, we’re doing our part – we are the first carbon neutral vet practice management system in the world. We go to great lengths to minimise our environmental impact (including greenhouse gas production), but we still buy a small amount of carbon offsets each year to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions we can’t avoid.  This is good for the environment but it’s also great for our bottom line, as we save thousands of dollars every year on our electricity, fuel and water bills.

For us, reducing our carbon footprint, and our environmental impact overall, is an ongoing process that never ends. We’re constantly checking, assessing and adjusting our business processes to help drive out waste and reduce carbon emissions.

We’ve learned a lot about creating a sustainable business along the way. Here are a few tips that you can use to reduce your clinic’s environmental impact, for the benefit of the climate and the added respect of your clientele.


Accurate Measurement

Before you can effectively control and reduce the environmental impact of your business, you must first understand what that impact is.  There are hundreds of different tools available online to help you identify and measure your practices greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, waste production/recycling efforts, etc.

Use one of these tools to create a baseline and return to it regularly to measure progress (and so you know how many carbon credits you’re going to need if you’re aiming to be carbon neutral).


Waste Reduction and Recycling

While some amount of waste is unavoidable, a lot can be helped by starting with a clear, firm policy and providing friendly reminders such as signs or team meetings to help everyone form effective waste reduction habits.

Aside from just rubbish and recycling, add in further bins to diversify your waste streams and ensure more waste will be given new life. Common waste streams may include paper, plastic, glass, metal, and even a compost bin for food scraps. 

Check to see if there are any medical waste recycling options in your area.  If so you may find that you can recycle waste that can’t be recycled via council collection (such as IV fluid bags and lines, vials, soft packaging, surgical gloves, etc.)

The Waste Hierarchy – Source: NSW EPA (AU)


Energy Efficiency

We identify everything within our business that uses energy (whether it be electricity, petrol, etc.) and choose products that are energy efficient. Low-draw fluorescent lights and fuel efficient vehicles are some examples, but you can even turn off appliances at the wall when they’re not being used, as these can still draw a small amount of power.

Try utilising natural light as much as possible by opening up some curtains and repositioning furniture that may be blocking windows.

Consider insulating your building (or asking your landlord) with up-to-standard insulation and getting rid of drafts. This will create a more regulated temperature inside, no matter the season. An upfront investment may save you not only on your environmental impact, but also money on heating and cooling your practice. 


Supplier Selection

The amount of carbon that your suppliers produce in the provision of products and services to you counts towards your carbon footprint, so it’s important to select sustainable suppliers wherever possible.

We select suppliers who are serious about minimising carbon emissions and also those who make it easy for us to estimate the amount of carbon they produce. This simplifies the process of calculating our own carbon footprint.

You can also reduce supply chain emissions by reducing the number of courier deliveries in and out of your clinic.  Try minimising the number of suppliers that you use and the number of orders you place each month.  Encourage customers to buy those toys, food and flea products while they’re in-store, etc.


Green Energy

Where possible, we use green energy sources, such as solar power generation. Most vet practices operate during the day, which makes them excellent consumers of solar energy.

Unfortunately this isn’t an option for us at the office, but we work from home a lot of the time and members of the team have implemented green energy sources. 

Beyond the energy saved by working from home, which is often not possible in a veterinary practice, we don’t use natural gas in any of our facilities and work to reduce water usage. 

Some ways you can cut back on water are: bringing reusable water bottles instead of using cups that have to be washed; install water-efficient taps; and keep on top of the building manager/owner to quickly repair any leaks.  Perform regular water audits and discuss strategies with the team for reducing water usage, including turning off taps while scrubbing up, for example.


Minimise Travel

This is a lot easier in a post-lockdown world, as most of us are now much more comfortable with remote meetings. Whether it’s with clients or business partners, consider an online meeting to save travel time, cost and added emissions. 

Consider offering online consultations, as these will help reduce client and patient travel.  Although they can be a bit awkward at first, you’ll often find clients appreciate the convenience of an online consult.

Communicate your carbon reduction efforts with your team and with your customers and suppliers and to encourage them to reduce their own carbon emissions.  You could encourage staff and clients to walk or cycle in (rather than drive), for example.


Offsetting Carbon Production

Unfortunately most businesses can’t avoid producing at least some amount of greenhouse gasses, so offsetting carbon emissions is the only way for them to become carbon neutral.  

There are many ways to offset your carbon emissions, but if you’re serious about being carbon neutral you’ll want to make sure your carbon offset efforts are credible and realistic. No, planting a couple of trees in your garden is unlikely to get you there (trust us – we looked into this).

At Panacea we buy carbon credits to offset our emissions.  Every carbon credit we buy offsets one tonne of greenhouse gasses that we produce.

We buy carbon offsets from reputable, audited companies that are ethical and that engage in carbon offset projects that we can support (such as re-forestation, etc.) These companies can not only provide evidence of how they offset our carbon emissions, but also that there’s no ‘double counting’ going on (i.e. so they’re offsetting an appropriate amount of carbon to match the amount of carbon credits they sell).

Cover image by Ashes Sitoula via Unsplash.