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An Open Letter to the Veterinary Profession

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am excited to share with you some great news related to the American Animal Hospital Association’s strategic direction. Historically, the AAHA Board of Directors has identified a “Mega Issue” to keep us focused on important issues facing our members and our profession. The AAHA Board has identified “promoting professional wellness” as its Mega Issue and intends to direct significant energy and resources in that direction.

The challenge of achieving professional wellbeing is recognized as a critical issue within the veterinary profession. From my purview, most of the efforts to address these challenges have focused on recognizing and treating problems (like depression, burnout, compassion fatigue, addiction, and suicidal ideation) by identifying support resources for affected individuals.

I am proud to announce that AAHA is launching a major initiative to address wellbeing from an alternative perspective that utilizes a positive, proactive approach to help prevent or mitigate mental health issues in veterinary practice teams. We intend to do this by encouraging practice team members to embrace the benefits of self-care and to provide practices with the resources to optimize their workplace culture.

AAHA will provide practices a pathway to design and build an optimal, customized, healthy culture. We believe this type of culture fosters individual and practice wellbeing while empowering team members to create harmony and satisfaction in their personal and professional lives. AAHA’s long-term aspiration is to help prevent problems before they become a crisis and to help practices develop cultures that are so good, employees can find refuge at work from life’s challenges.

AAHA has always defined excellence in veterinary care. Now we want to extend that to include excellence in workplace culture and team member wellbeing. While improving practice culture is not an easy process and doesn’t happen overnight, the payoff to the practice will be substantial. Personally, I have seen the positive impact that cultural transformation has on businesses and am honored to be part of positive change for veterinary practice teams.

We believe the investment in creating a more harmonious workplace will do the following:

  • Decrease employee turnover by increasing employee satisfaction
  • Increase staff productivity due to improved engagement, processes, and communication
  • Help prevent or mitigate serious mental health crises
  • Improve individual wellbeing by inspiring team members to find more purpose in the profession they love

Most importantly, a healthier practice culture will improve patient care and client satisfaction.

I have often said it is great to work for an organization that makes the world a better place. If we at AAHA are doing our jobs well, we help our accredited practices achieve excellence in medicine, patient care, and client care, and now, practice team member care. Patient care improves, clients are happier, the human-animal bond thrives, practice team members achieve higher degrees of personal and professional satisfaction, and we suddenly have more smiling people and healthy, happy pets . . . which ultimately makes the world a better place.

To further cultivate your understanding of the importance of self-care and cultural transformation, I am pleased to invite you to read this booklet, AAHA’s Guide to Veterinary Practice Team Wellbeing, written by various experts in the field of personal wellbeing and culture. Please share this with your colleagues. We hope it serves as a springboard for discussion and leads to action that will make a difference in your personal and professional lives.

Sincerely,

Michael T. Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP (Emeritus)
CEO, American Animal Hospital Association

Want to share with the entire team?

Pick up free copies of AAHA's Guide to Veterinary Practice Team Wellbeing and the roundtable discussion, The Link Between a Health Workplace Culture and Optimal Personal Wellbeing at these locations:

  • AAHA@VMX ( Rosen Centre Hotel)
  • Health & Wellbeing Center ( VMX Expo Hall)
  • AAHA booth ( VMX Expo Hall)
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