Veterinarians struggle with stress, burnout amid pandemic

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Veterinarians are dealing with depression, burnout and stress.

“We experience a lot of life and death situations, sometimes very typical ones. Sometimes very sad, and these can be hard to help people through,” said Dr. Julie Blossom, a veterinarian and the founder of Peer Assistance and Wellness Support (PAWS) for the New Mexico Veterinary Medical Association. “But sometimes it’s hard for us to separate ourselves from that. We’re compassionate people, and we’re caring people, and that’s why we do what we do, so it can take a toll.”

The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reported veterinarians are two to three-and-a-half times more likely to die from suicide compared to the rest of the population.

"One of the biggest risk factors for veterinarians committing suicide is long hours and work overload,” said Dr. Blossom.

She added that student loan debt, burnout and euthanizations are also part of the issue. The pandemic only complicated things.

As more people stayed home, more pets were adopted, leading to an increased demand for pet medical care.

“But what happened to veterinarians is that they actually got much, much busier. So they were experiencing for sure longer hours, more work,” she explained.

Understaffed clinics can’t keep up.

"I think we need to talk about work stress and work overload and help other members of the profession acknowledge that and manage that so that we can keep going,” she said.

A list of resources for veterinarians who need help can be found on PAWS’ website.