Take your “Wellbeing Pulse”

August 1, 2018

What is the difference between Wellness and Wellbeing?

How can the latter be improved upon?

“It would be great if we could start to see veterinarians applauding each other for leaving at 5:00,” stated Elizabeth Strand, PhD, LCSW, director of veterinary social work at the University of Tennessee in DVM360’s article, “Merck Study: Veterinarians have normal mental health but poor well-being.”

There is a silver lining in Merck’s Study! I first learned about the notion of veterinarians having a higher suicide rate while creating classes for VSPN in 2009. My research uncovered a VPN article titled “Substance Abuse; A culture of denial.”

Since that time, the veterinary community has spent time and energy getting a handle on the statistics and solutions. I have seen the topics of suicide and abuse go from taboo to normalizing. This is GOOD!

I recall the first time I heard the word “desensitization” used during the Veterinary Wellbeing Summit in Fort Collins in November 2016. I think we are heading in the right direction, even though we have further to go.

Veterinary team members may be inundated with the notions of wellness and wellbeing (through continuing education classes, blogs, videos, etc.). How are the terms different? How can wellbeing be improved upon?

Here is one way to look at them differently:

Wellness = Physical Health

Wellbeing = Holistic, whole life experience (body, mind & spirit)

That’s how I see it as a simple way to differentiate the two terms. Focusing on individual and team wellbeing will serve the profession better, knowing that physical wellness is a small part of the whole. That’s why CATALYST VetPC chooses to focus on wellbeing and veterinary teams living well. We include body, mind and spirit in the equation.

In our survey a few months ago, we asked how individuals were doing in personal care and wellness. We inquired about adequate sleep, water, healthy eating and exercise. We understood it would be easier for individuals to quantify these topics and we received good responses.

This month we created a poll focusing on team wellbeing. We want to know about this aspect of veterinary team culture, specifically seeking answers to emotional, physical and career advancement questions. You are encouraged to take the poll and share with your colleagues! We want to learn how managers are supporting their team members in wellbeing. Results, and perhaps ideas for solutions, will be shared in two weeks.

Wellbeing Pulse

Now is the time for veterinary owners, managers and team members to recognize how team wellbeing impacts ALL aspects of the veterinary hospital, culture, patient care and client service. Take a “Wellbeing Pulse.” Identifying the pulse is the first step towards creating a healthier culture. Once you know where you are, then there can be conscious improvement in veterinary team wellbeing, which includes wellness!

“I might propose that it’s more important for organizations to start to change. Just like children can’t be healthy in unhealthy homes, veterinarians can’t be healthy in unhealthy practice environments,” stated Linda Lord, DVM, PhD, in the Merck Study.

We’d like to help improve hospital settings. Join us on the closed Facebook page Veterinary Teams Living Well for “21 Days of Healthy Habits in Wellbeing.” Starting August 1, we will be posting tips, tricks and resources for veterinary managers and teams to embrace.

After all, wellbeing can be improved upon!

Yours in Veterinary Team Wellbeing,

Rebecca Rose, CVT


Merck Study; Veterinarians have normal mental health but poor wellbeing, Kristie Reimer Fender, DVM360,
Substance Abuse: A culture of denial, Jessica Treymayne, June 2008, VPN