Veterinary medicine is a stressful profession. Depression, anxiety, compassion fatigue, and burnout are commonly reported by veterinary workers. What causes this stress? There are a number of factors:
- Unreasonable and demanding clients
- Compassion fatigue
- Heavy workloads
- Work constraints caused by lack of access to technology, training, etc.
- Interpersonal issues among staff
- Understaffed offices, long hours, working nights and weekends
- Lack of work/life balance
- Financial stressors
Furthermore, Americans in general, are stressed by:
- The global pandemic and its impact on their health, the health of loved ones and the economy
- A polarizing presidential race and concerns about the future of the country (83% American Psychological Association)
- Natural disasters effecting states across the U.S., including hurricanes, tropical storms, severe weather, flooding, and fires
At the practice level, COVID-19 has resulted in changes and adjustments in the way in which practices operate, creating stress for staff, clients, and patients due to:
- Operational changes that include curbside appointments, contactless payments, reduced contact with staff, and requirements that pets receive treatment without owners present to maintain proper social distancing
- New ways of conducting business such as telemedicine
- Implementing, monitoring, and enforcing safety procedures like PPE and social distancing
- Fears of contracting COVID from staff and patients
- Concerns---whether accurate or unfounded---related to the financial impact on the practice
It is clear that these are unprecedented times that have made an already stressful industry even more on edge. Clients are feeling the pressure, patients too. A dog’s stress level can be influenced by their owners and cats are sympathetic creatures that sense stress and reflect their human’s stress.
In turbulent times, veterinary workers are dealing with their own emotions compounded by stressed out owners and pets. When a client is mandated to remain away from an already stressed pet during the veterinary visit, the pet’s stress level can skyrocket! Cats especially, because they tend to be more veterinary adverse than dogs, could benefit from extra care and handling.
Now more than ever, it is important for practices to ensure that patients feel welcome and the visit is stress free. Catering to felines may require practices to explore additional guidance and considerations. Whether the practice treats felines along with other animals or is exclusively a cat friendly practice, there are resources available that can help to improve the environment for cats, especially during trying times.
Because visiting the veterinarian can be a traumatic for a cat, owners may be reluctant to schedule needed visits. With current protocols to ensure social distancing, some practices are mandating that owners not be present during the exam. This can make the visit overwhelming for the owner and the pet. Neglecting to keep up with health visits can impact the health and life span of the feline.
Resources are available to help practices create feline friendly environments. Partners for Healthy Pets provides free tools and resources for practices interested in encouraging the preventive healthcare of cats. Visit the Partners for Healthy Pets website here.