Guiding Principles for State Veterinary Wellness Programs

The AVMA recognizes and supports the importance of wellness in the veterinary community and defines wellness as an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a successful existence both as individuals within society and within the work environment. The AVMA supports and encourages state Veterinary Medical Associations (VMAs) to develop and maintain wellness programs to protect the health and function of the veterinary community. State VMAs are encouraged to incorporate these guiding principles in establishing and structuring wellness programs.

  1. Each state VMA should establish a wellness committee. Wellness committee members should become knowledgeable of their respective state laws and regulations, and local resources to provide valuable assistance to their colleagues. Wellness committees are encouraged to have a minimum of 3 members and to include diverse representation of the veterinary community such as:
    • a veterinary technician
    • a past member of the veterinary state board
    • a recovering member from the veterinary community
    • a veterinary college faculty member
    • a member of the state veterinary auxiliary
    • a veterinary student
  2. The broad role for each state's wellness committee is to protect the health and function of the veterinary community and, as such, the committee should promote balanced physical, mental, and professional health for all community members. The committee should have knowledge of wellness issues impacting the veterinary community including chemical dependence, eating disorders, compassion fatigue, anger management, stress, profession burnout, depression, anxiety disorders, and suicide. Committees should also maintain a liaison relationship with the veterinary schools and veterinary technology programs, as appropriate, to increase student awareness of wellness issues.
  3. Wellness committees should be positioned to:
    • promote continuing education programs on wellness issues to the veterinary community and urge the acceptance of these offerings as part of continuing education requirements, if they exist.
    • develop and maintain a system for referral and monitoring individuals in need of assistance and to liaison with the state veterinary licensure boards to ensure assistance is available as needed.
    • assist the state VMA in the development of a peer assistance program to identify and assist veterinarians affected by conditions that potentially impair their ability to provide veterinary services. Peer assistance programs, when working effectively and efficiently, provide educational and prevention programs, and may identify disorders before debilitating impairment develops. By caring for individuals before impairment becomes an issue, the public and patients are protected. Early identification, treatment, and rehabilitation of individuals are in the best interest of everyone.
  4. Each state's wellness committee and the peer assistance programs must ensure:
    1. that appropriate mechanisms are in place to protect the confidentiality of those who seek and provide help through authorized programs.
    2. that measures are sought to provide those who serve in veterinary peer assistance programs immunity from civil liability, except for willful or wanton acts.
    3. that strong working relationships are maintained between state, local, and national programs.
    4. that periodic review of the wellness committee and peer assistance program be conducted to ensure they are meeting the needs of the veterinary community.