Techs Take Wellness Online

Compassion fatigue and burnout are rampant among veterinary technicians. Some techs are taking to social media to promote wellness and spread encouragement to others.

By Linda Childers

Vet Techs Use Social Media to Promote Mental Health

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Sarah Parsons, LVT, still remembers the day three years ago when a disgruntled veterinary client began yelling at her during a phone call. Despite Parsons’ best efforts to calm the woman down, the client’s screaming persisted, and Parsons ultimately ended the phone call in tears.

“That day was my breaking point,” Parsons says. “I was burned out, depressed, and experiencing compassion fatigue.”

Unfortunately, Parsons’ experience is all too common. In a 2022 survey published by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), 70% of vet techs reported experiencing burnout, while 65% cited compassion fatigue as the most frequent well-being issue they faced.

After her own experience, Parsons wanted to do everything in her power to encourage other vet techs to practice self-care, reach out for support, and learn how to reduce stress. She launched @watreallyhappensatthevet, a TikTok account where she posts a mix of lighthearted and serious videos to her nearly 100,000 followers. She tries to post one or two videos each week on topics like encouraging vet techs to ask for help when they’re going through a tough time.

TikTok post of Sarah Parson, LVT

“I want others in the vet field to know there’s help out there, no one should have to endure stress and burnout until they reach their breaking point.”

—Sarah Parsons, LVT, @watreallyhappensatthevet

“Work shouldn’t be our only source of joy,” says Parsons, who enjoys spending time with her two young sons, taking 30-minute walks to destress, and journaling.

“I experienced postpartum depression after my sons were born, and I began seeing a therapist and taking medication, which really helped,” she says. “I want others in the vet field to know there’s help out there; no one should have to endure stress and burnout until they reach their breaking point.”

Offering Inspired Ideas for Self-Care

During the pandemic, Emily Ahsan, CVT, noticed her co-workers needed a morale boost, so she decided to create a fun sticker featuring a dog scooting across the floor, with the text, “Sorry, I’m Dragging Ass Today.”

“After designing the sticker, I documented the process and made a TikTok video about it, and I woke up the next day to over 50,000 views and hundreds of comments from veterinary professionals asking where they could buy the sticker,” Ahsan says. “The design really resonated with the vet community.”

Ahsan initially named her business Vet Stickers, but after her inventory began to include more than just stickers, she wanted a name that was more fitting.

“Love Huvet stands for ‘love for humans of vet med,’ and that’s exactly how we hope our customers feel after receiving our products or interacting with our brand: loved and appreciated,” Ahsan says. “I know from my own experiences as a vet tech how excited and enthusiastic I felt in the beginning and how those feelings turned into stress and burnout.”

In 2020, Ahsan turned to social platforms including TikTok and Instagram using the account name @love.huvet to promote wellness and mental health for vet techs and veterinary professionals. Love Huvet also has a YouTube channel, a Facebook wellness community called Humans of Vet Med, and a blog at lovehuvet.com.

“I know my experiences as a vet tech aren’t unique,” Ahsan says. “Part of our mission at Love Huvet is to be the change we want to see in vet med, and to help veterinary professionals understand, advocate for, and take care of their mental health.”

In addition to stickers, one of Love Huvet’s most popular products is The Vet Med Wellness Journal, created by Ahsan.

“After a hard day at the clinic, it can be difficult to disconnect from worry, negative thoughts, and stress and to reflect on the positive things that happened during your day,” she says. “The Vet Med Wellness Journal is designed with these specific needs of veterinary professionals in mind and includes prompts to encourage reflection and growth, highlight achievements and memorable moments, and assess physical wellbeing.”

Although Ahsan enjoyed her work as a vet tech, she left her clinic job in 2021—in part due to the success of Love Huvet and added stresses caused by the pandemic.

TikTok Post of Emily Ahsan, CVT

“We believe in advocating for the importance of improved working conditions, better mental health support, and a sustainable work-life balance for vet techs.”

—Emily Ahsan, CVT, @love.huvet

“Although I don’t currently have any plans to return to full-time veterinary work (running a business and being a mom is my current more-than-a-full-time job), I am signed up with a relief veterinary service so I can work in the field on a flexible basis,” Ahsan says. “Although I’m not in the vet field on a daily basis, my commitment to inspiring change and improving the veterinary field is stronger than ever!”

Over the past year, Love Huvet has hosted free monthly workshops live on their Instagram and TikTok for veterinary professionals on the last Monday of each month at 8:00 p.m. ET.

“Each workshop features a different guest, topic, or activity and is intended to give veterinary professionals an opportunity to connect, grow, and de-stress,” Ahsan says. “Past workshops have included activities like a color + chill night, virtual yoga, and topics like negotiating in the workplace and addressing burnout.”

Ahsan says Love Huvet has also recently started hosting workshops and other interactive events in their Facebook group “Humans of Vet Med” to give even more opportunities for connection and growth in areas like emotional wellness, financial wellness, physical wellness, and more.

“We believe in advocating for the importance of improved working conditions, better mental health support, and a sustainable work-life balance for vet techs,” Ahsan says. “Through Love Huvet, we aim to use our platform to inspire positive change in the field and uplift the remarkable individuals who dedicate their lives to animal care.”

Creating a Nonprofit to Support Vet Techs/Nurses

Shena Humbert, LVT, knows what it feels like to experience burnout, stress, and compassion fatigue. It’s the main reason why she took a break from the veterinary field to create and launch Not Another Vet Nurse (NAVN; notanothervetnurse.com), a nonprofit and social media support group for the veterinary community.

“I started NAVN in 2019…as I was struggling to find my place professionally in veterinary medicine,” she says. “It started on Instagram as a support group where those in the field could talk about their struggles.”

Humbert quickly discovered a lot of veterinary professionals were looking for a safe space where they could seek support.

Shena Humbert, LVTShena Humbert, LVT, @notanothervetnurse

“NAVN focuses on supplying a free mental health resource within the profession,” she says. “It allows people to apply for a grant that covers three visits with a mental health provider.”

The NAVN website also lists a blog with posts on how to respectfully confront your boss, how to know it’s time to leave your job, and more.

Through her social platforms, including TikTok (@notanothervetnurse), Instagram (@not_another_vet_nurse), and the Not Another Vet Nurse Facebook group, Humbert promotes mental wellness and offers vet techs a forum where they can receive advice and support.

“I highly recommend our administrators on Instagram and Facebook who have also experienced stress and burnout,” Humbert says. “For those who need a little more support, we have a mental health resources tab on our website. Sometimes what we’re going through is beyond talking to someone through social media, and that’s okay.”

Helping Others in the Vet Community Achieve Wellness

Veterinary assistant Crystal Aichele describes herself as determined and resilient but admits there have been times when she’s been gripped by burnout and depression.

“I was once a passionate and dedicated veterinary student, but I gradually found myself overwhelmed by the demands of my profession, including the long hours, emotional strain, and a lack of work-life balance,” she says. “I experienced a deep sense of exhaustion, detachment, and a loss of purpose—all indicative of burnout.”

Crystal Aichele handling a bobcat

“The simple act of expressing myself through video and putting pen to paper became a cathartic release, allowing me to process my thoughts, fears, and frustrations.”

—Crystal Aichele, @stahlygrace

Recognizing the need for an outlet to express her emotions, Aichele turned to making videos and journaling.

“The simple act of expressing myself through video and putting pen to paper became a cathartic release, allowing me to process my thoughts, fears, and frustrations,” she says. “It provided a safe space where I could pour out my heart without judgment or restrictions. “

In addition, Aichele gained a greater understanding of her emotions and began to identify patterns and triggers contributing to her burnout and mental health struggles. She has also become certified in Mental Health First Aid through the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and completed Crisis Intervention Training through Crisis Support Services of Nevada.

“Rather than concealing my challenges, I decided to embrace my struggles and share my journey with others,” she says. “By openly discussing my burnout, stress, and suicidal thoughts, I sought to break the stigma surrounding mental health and inspire others to seek help.”

Through social media platforms, including TikTok (@stahlygrace), Aichele found solace connecting with others who could relate to her experiences.

“This act of vulnerability is not only helping me heal but has also created a supportive network of individuals who uplift and encourage one another,” she says.

Although Aichele began creating online content purely for enjoyment, she gradually felt a deep desire to inspire and uplift those who face the challenges of bullying and mental health issues.

“Additionally, I wanted to provide support to my colleagues who were navigating the turbulent waters of the pandemic,” she says. “Through my TikTok content, I hoped to foster laughter and serve as a source of decompression for everyone.”

As someone who lost a loved on to suicide, Aichele has found solace in utilizing social media to promote candid discussions surrounding mental health struggles.

“By embracing authenticity, it brings a refreshing approach to addressing mental health challenges and fosters connection and understanding among my followers,” she says. “On social media, I share funny anecdotes, relatable memes, and lighthearted content, giving others a place to momentarily escape their own struggles and find solace in shared experiences.”

In addition to humor, Aichele is unafraid to tackle the raw and vulnerable aspects of mental health.

“By openly discussing these challenges, I think it breaks down barriers and encourages other vet techs to do the same,” she says. “By openly discussing my struggles, I hope to normalize the conversation and encourage others to seek professional help if they’re experiencing significant distress, without feeling shame or judgment.”

Finding Solace Through Exercise

After Kimberlee Smith, LVT, transferred from her job in primary vet care to one in emergency care, she noticed her stress level also increased.

While she had long heard about the health benefits of yoga, she was surprised how much better she felt after just one class.

“I felt 10 times better and my attitude improved,” Smith says. “I started listening to my body and doing yoga on a regular basis.”

Kimberlee Smith doing yoga in a parkKimberlee Smith, LVT, Instagram@thatblondeyogii

Smith knew many others in the vet field who were feeling burned out and she thought it would be great if she could offer a yoga and self-care workshop to the vet community.

During the COVID pandemic in 2020, Smith took virtual courses to become a yoga instructor and the following year, she started offering “Vet Tech Yoga” at several local animal hospitals.

“I not only teach beginning yoga, I also talk to the staff about ways to practice self-care, like a bath at the end of the workday or journaling,” Smith says. “We also talk about how we can support each other as a team and incorporate self-care into vet practices.”

On her Instagram account @thatblondeyogii, Smith demonstrates yoga poses and has also offered virtual beginning yoga sessions to those in vet med. In one post, she demonstrates how even busy vet professionals can take 30 seconds to pause and do seated twists that improve digestion and strengthen the spine, neck, and hips.

Smith has also teamed with Love Huvet to offer virtual yoga sessions and hopes to be able to travel and offer her workshops to other vet practices across the country.

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Linda Childers is a California-based freelance writer who regularly writes on a wide variety of health-related topics.

Photo credits: Instagram@thatblondeyogii, TikTok@notanothervetnurse, TikTok@watreallyhappensatthevet, TikTok@love.huvet, TikTok@stahlygrace, Photo courtesy of Shena Humbert, LVT, Photo courtesy of Crystal Aichele, Photo courtesy of Kimberlee Smith, LVT

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