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January 15, 2020

Defining well-being

Published on January 02, 2020

Dr. Julie Ducoté argues that moving to a culture of well-being will help the veterinary industry. She has been working to change the culture in her own practice since she lost two veterinarian friends to suicide a few years ago. 

“In my shock … I had to start questioning everything that I believed about my personal and professional life,” Dr. Ducoté said. “What I discovered was up to this point, I had lived and worked every day refusing to acknowledge the truth about the struggles I faced in my work.”

Dr. Ducoté gave the presentation “Transforming from a Culture of Competition and Self-Sacrifice into a Culture of Wellbeing” at the 2019 Wellbeing Summit.

She is CEO and staff neurologist at the Center for Veterinary Specialty Emergency Care in Lewisville, Texas.

Dr. Julie Ducoté
Dr. Julie Ducoté is the CEO and staff neurologist at the Center for Veterinary Specialty Emergency Care in Lewisville, Texas. She has worked hard to define and implement a culture of well-being at her practice. (Courtesy of Dr. Ducoté)

Well-being is defined as the way individuals think and feel about their lives, compared with the best and worst possible lives they can imagine, according to the 2017 Merck Animal Health Veterinary Wellbeing Study. The study shows that veterinarians scored only slightly lower in well-being than the general population, with the percentage of veterinarians classified as “flourishing” (58.3%) approximately 3 percentage points lower than the percentage of the U.S. employed general population with that classification (61.2%). Factors contributing to low well-being include educational debt, working long hours, low income, and lack of healthy activities.

Dr. Ducoté has worked hard to define and implement a culture of well-being at her practice by doing some of the following:

  • Emphasizing collaboration instead of competition.
  • Caring for others within healthy boundaries.
  • Practicing self-care instead of self-sacrifice.
  • Releasing perfectionism.
  • Being present with each other.
  • Remembering it’s a journey.
  • Developing empathy.
  • Following instincts.
  • Speaking up and talking with team members about mental health.
  • Hiring a veterinary social worker.