AAHA Healthy Workplace Culture Initiative seeks to address mental health issues within veterinary profession

Mental health issues such as depression, career burnout, compassion fatigue, and even suicide have become an increasingly concerning problem in the veterinary profession.

To address this issue, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is proud to announce the launch of the Healthy Workplace Culture Initiative. The initiative will address wellbeing from an alternative perspective that utilizes a positive, proactive approach to help prevent or mitigate mental health issues in veterinary practice teams. The initiative will also provide guidance in designing and building an optimal, customized, healthy workplace culture.

To kick off the initiative, AAHA has published AAHA’s Guide to Veterinary Team Wellbeing, a resource designed to support individual wellbeing in the veterinary practice.

AAHA Chief Executive Officer, Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP (Emeritus), believes a healthy culture fosters individual and practice wellbeing and allows team members to find harmony in their personal and professional lives.

“AAHA’s long-term aspiration is to help practices develop cultures that are so good employees can find refuge from life’s challenges at work,” Cavanaugh said. “AAHA has always been synonymous with excellence in veterinary care. Now we want to extend that to include excellence in workplace culture and team member wellbeing.”

Several veterinary organizations have taken steps to address mental health issues by focusing their efforts on educating veterinary professionals to recognize these challenges and to emphasize the importance of seeking professional support after these problems have been identified. AAHA’s initiative takes a different approach, instead focusing on prevention of these issues by promoting a healthy workplace culture and wellbeing in the veterinary hospital.

Led primarily by AAHA Veterinary Advisor, Heather Loenser, DVM, the publication of AAHA’s Guide to Veterinary Team Wellbeing is the first step in this long path.

“This guide includes practical, easy-to-implement steps that every practice could start doing today to improve the way everyone on the team feels about themselves, their coworkers, and the important work they do caring for pets and their people,” Loenser said.

Benefits of a healthier practice culture include:

  • Decreased employee turnover due to increased employee satisfaction
  • Increased staff productivity due to improved engagement, processes, and communication
  • Improved individual wellbeing as a result of inspiring team members to find more purpose in the profession they love
  • Elevated reputation of the practice as it becomes an employer of choice, attracting and retaining top talent

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

Additional resources are in development and will be due to launch in 2018.

“The AAHA Board of Directors is committed to supporting practices in addressing wellbeing issues within veterinary hospitals,” said AAHA President, Mark McConnell, BVMS, MRCVS. “We understand that improving practice culture is not an easy process and doesn’t happen overnight, but we firmly believe that the payoff to the practice will be substantial.”

AAHA’s Guide to Veterinary Practice Team Wellbeing can be accessed online free of cost.