Investigating wellbeing at work

Everyone likes to feel appreciated for the work they do and veterinarians are no exception, so the results of a recent study published in Vet Record that invited Australian vets to respond to a Ten Statements Test with the prompt, ‘I derive pleasure in my work as a veterinarian when…’ unsurprisingly confirmed that when vets are shown trust and respect by their clients, and are thanked for their work, it makes them feel good.

Lead author Madeleine Clise, a psychologist and Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Adelaide’s School of Psychology, said the study investigated the positive side of veterinary work, and specifically focused on what brought vets pleasure in the job. For people to continue to be inspired and motivated to remain in, and to be attracted to the profession this was an important factor to be considered.

“At a time when there are national shortages of vets – particularly in regional areas – and increased publicity about the risks and challenges in the profession, we need to focus on what contributes to vets experiencing positive emotions so we can better understand how to improve the wellbeing of those who care for our beloved pets, livestock and wildlife,” Clise said.

The survey was completed by 273 vets and the 2536 responses received were then grouped into themes and sub-themes and categorised using the ‘Job Demands-Resources Model’ which focuses on both the positive and negative aspects of a job that are indicative of employee wellbeing.

Believed to be the first empirical study of its kind for vets senior author Michelle McArthur, Associate Professor at the UA’s School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, said that while the responses were somewhat surprising they revealed a, ‘potentially exciting, unexplored and less acknowledged yet highly pleasurable aspect of vet work’ that went beyond the joy of working with animals. The results also showed experiencing certain positive beliefs about oneself, such as flexibility, having a positive attitude and accomplishment are associated with pleasure at work.

“They showed opportunities to highlight the variety of positive and varied experiences professionals in veterinary medicine can draw upon to provide pleasure in their work. These could include introducing an informal and formal recognition system and increasing time spent with colleagues. Further benefits could include the introduction of a peer supervision or mentoring program to support veterinary expertise and increase connectedness across the profession. Further developing personal resources, for example in the university curriculum or as an ongoing professional development, could increase the overall wellbeing of vets,” McArthur said.

There were some negatives cited by respondents but McArthur said they tended to refer to an absence of a negative in order for a positive experience to result, for example: ‘when I don’t…‘, or ‘when there’s not…’, while some included job demands such as injuries, for example: ‘when I’m not bitten’. Negative workplace and client experiences, poor work-life balance, stress, and fatigue were also listed as negatives.

McArthur said future studies were planned to explore how pleasure at work can be better developed and measured to strengthen resilience and wellbeing. Further research will also explore workplace relationships and interactions with clients, which although are sources of joy and pleasure for vets, can also prove challenging.

“Veterinarian work is such a rewarding profession and it’s important we share the many positives with new vets, and those in training, both as reassurance and to encourage others to join the profession,” she said.

Anne Layton-Bennett

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