Disease Du Jour: Merck Animal Health/AVMA Veterinary Wellbeing Study

In this podcast episode, Drs. Joseph Hahn and Chrissie Schneider discuss critical information from this recent survey on veterinarian wellbeing.

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The three Veterinary Wellbeing studies that Merck Animal Health has sponsored with the AVMA are critical to understanding how our veterinary population is handling the stresses of the profession. The results of the third study (conducted in the fall of 2021) are discussed in this podcast by Dr. Joseph Hahn and Dr. Chrissie Schneider of Merck.

Of no surprise to anyone is that veterinarians have been reporting increasing stress levels since the results of the first study in 2019. It should be noted that this study is of all veterinarians, but equine veterinarians were also included and some of the information from Hahn and Schneider is directly related to equine practitioners.

You can find more resources on Merck’s vetwellbeing.com.

Podcast Guests

Dr. Joseph Hahn is the Executive Director of US Companion Animal and Equine Professional Services at Merck Animal Health. In his current role, Hahn has been a champion for the enrichment of the veterinary profession, helping to sponsor and advance initiatives from the AVMA, Not One More Vet, the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association, MentorVet and others. Prior to joining Merck Animal Health,  Hahn was in practice for 10 years. He spent the first four years in general practice. During that time, he was able to gain experience in everything from solo practice to large corporate practice. His last six years in practice were in Emergency Medicine in Chicago. Hahn received his DVM from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 1998.

Dr. Schneider is a Senior Equine Professional Services Veterinarian at Merck Animal Health. Prior to joining Merck, Schneider was in clinical equine practice for 11 years—including an equine internship, an American Board of Veterinary Practitioners residency at The Ohio State University and six years as an associate at an equine-exclusive private practice in central Ohio. Schneider is board certified in equine practice by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners.

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Brought to you by Merck Animal Health

Study Results and Implications

One of the unfortunate facts from this recent study was that 50% of veterinarians said they would not recommend pursuing a career as a veterinarian. However, studies such as this and others specifically for equine are pointing out not only the problems the equine veterinary industry is facing, but guiding the industry toward solutions. 

Veterinarian wellness centers around satisfaction of the job (this includes a lot of things, such as clients, hours worked, emergency duty, a “team” of support even if you are a solo practitioner); time away from the job for family, friends or in personal pursuits; and managing financial resources to avoid financial stress.

Hahn and Schneider talked about things employers can do to attract and retain veterinarians and support staff, mentorships, offering resources for managing stress (38% of study respondents didn’t know if they had mental health treatment and counseling in their insurance plans), and understanding the personality types of the team at your practice so you can better provide what they need and communicate to them in the style that works for them.

They also said there are other jobs in the veterinary industry aside from daily animal care. 

Schneider mentioned the survey Amy Grice, VMD, MBA, did for EquiManagement and reported on at the 2021 AAEP Convention on the State of Equine Veterinary Practice. (Editor’s note: The statistics of the survey can be found at the aforementioned link, and two articles putting those statistics into perspective can be found in the 2022 Spring issue of EquiManagement magazine.)

Schneider also spoke about mentorship programs for young equine veterinarians, including DecadeOneVet.com

She mentioned the Sustainability in Equine Practice meeting in the fall of 2021, which will be held again in March 2022.

Hahn said now the focus is on solutions. He said they are developing tools to help practice owners and veterinarians; working on better mentoring of young vets; and supporting the Not One More Vet organization.

“In order to have a healthy, sustainable profession, we need to take care of ourselves,” said Hahn.

Schneider said, “Talking about this is the only way to move forward. Sometimes we think having a conversation won’t move the needle. But letting people know your experiences and hearing theirs is important.”

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