Veterinary wellness roundtable happening next year

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A veterinary wellness roundtable scheduled for early 2016 at AVMA headquarters got the go-ahead from the AVMA Board of Directors during its Sept. 10-12 meeting.

The purpose is to explore the value and effectiveness of wellness programs within the veterinary profession. The 20 or so invited attendees will report conclusions and recommendations to the AVMA membership.

Specifically, organizers anticipate the roundtable will tackle the following:

  • Causes for poor wellness among veterinarians.
  • Strategies to promote wellness and what is working currently.
  • Gaps and barriers to improving veterinarian wellness.
  • Initial plans to support and promote wellness for the profession.

“Lots of organizations are doing something, but there’s no coordinated effort. In fact, there are competing events,” AVMA CEO Ron DeHaven said. “The idea was ‘Let’s bring in everyone involved or interested in wellness, and take an inventory so we’re not competing, and let’s have the AVMA be a clearinghouse and also identify gaps so we can fill those.’”

AVMA Board of Directors Chair John de Jong presides over the Sept. 10-12 meeting, which included the Board approving a veterinary wellness roundtable to take place in early 2016. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

The AVMA Future Leaders 2014-2015 class concentrated its efforts on wellness and provided resources on topics such as stress, finances, and work-life balance in an effort to reduce rates of depression and suicide in veterinary medicine. These include a self-assessment tool, podcasts, videos, and links to additional resources.

The AVMA Future Leaders 2015-2016 class will take up the same topic but with a focus on developing a guide to wellness in the workplace. Additionally, the AVMA is hoping to leverage the power of its two trusts—the AVMA Group Health & Life Insurance Trust and AVMA PLIT—to support veterinarians’ wellness by way of outcomes from the roundtable or otherwise. This year’s Future Leaders also plan to host a half-day symposium at the 2016 AVMA Annual Convention in August focusing on wellness.

In addition, AVMA staff are working on a Hot Topics Session for the convention that will give an overview of recommendations from the roundtable, relay progress made with regard to implementation of short-term recommendations where applicable, and facilitate a discussion on potential next steps. That’s according to background materials submitted by the AVMA Executive Leadership Team to the Board.

Dr. Lynne White-Shim, AVMA staff consultant to the Future Leaders, says not only Future Leaders will attend the wellness roundtable but also experts in wellness, representatives of allied organizations and industry, employers of veterinarians, and AVMA leaders.

The topic of wellness in the profession has gained traction in recent years. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges is hosting in November its third wellness symposium, which focuses on related issues and programs at veterinary colleges. Also, a study that appeared in the Oct. 15 issue of JAVMA suggests, compared with the general population, U.S. veterinarians “have a higher prevalence of depression and suicidal ideation and perceive greater stigma for mental illness. Additionally, veterinarians frequently experience health-threatening stress related to the demands of practicing veterinary medicine.”

The study goes on to say that further studies are needed to elucidate potential causes of suicidal behaviors among veterinarians as well as studies “to evaluate measures aimed at reducing barriers veterinarians face when seeking mental health treatment, decreasing perceived stigma among veterinarians associated with mental illness, and lessening stressors associated with veterinary practice.”