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Stress and burnout top vet concerns six months on from COVID lockdown

Concerns around practical vet student training and student and new veterinary graduate confidence also topped the list

29 October 2020, at 12:00pm

Three-quarters of vets are concerned about stress and burnout in the profession as a result of COVID-19, according to a new survey from the BVA.

Concerns around practical vet student training and student and new veterinary graduate confidence also topped the list of areas of concern relating to the pandemic. On the impact on animal health and welfare in the medium term, there was most concern for zoo animals and wildlife.

Six months on from the national lockdown, BVA polled members of the Voice of the Veterinary Profession panel in a snapshot survey to gauge how the profession is feeling about different aspects of veterinary life that may be affected by coronavirus. 565 respondents ranked their levels of concern across health and wellbeing, finance and employment, students and new graduates, and animal health and welfare.

The top concerns are:

  • Stress and burnout in the profession – 74 percent very or quite concerned
  • The provision of extra-mural studies (practical training) for vet students – 72 percent
  • Student and new graduate confidence – 67 percent
  • Stress and burnout amongst colleagues – 67 percent
  • The impact of a recession on the veterinary sector – 62 percent
  • Wildlife and zoo animal health and welfare in the medium term – 62 percent

The findings are published as the UK faces the second wave of the pandemic.

Veterinary workplaces have adapted to working safely, but four in ten respondents (42 percent) are very or quite concerned about contracting COVID-19 in their workplace, rising to 55 percent amongst those working in mixed practice and 50 percent in small animal/exotic practice.

Respondents were more concerned about stress and burnout amongst their colleagues (67 percent very or quite concerned) than the impact on themselves (45 percent), but more than half (58 percent) of small animal/exotics vets reported being concerned about their own stress and burnout. Managers and employees reported higher levels of concern around stress and burnout than business owners and those who are self-employed.

When it comes to employment, the profession is a bit more optimistic, although a level of caution remains. Over a fifth (23 percent) of respondents are not at all concerned about job security in the veterinary sector, with 43 percent a little concerned and 31 percent very or quite concerned. Equine vets (45 percent) and charity vets (64 percent) are very or quite concerned about job security in their own sectors, against an average of 23 percent across all areas of work.

However, 95 percent of respondents had some level of concern (a little, quite or very) about the potential impact of a recession on the veterinary sector, with government, equine and charity vets most concerned.

The findings will be used to inform BVA’s work on supporting the veterinary profession as the pandemic continues.

Commenting, BVA President James Russell said:

“Although this is just a snapshot survey, it tells us a lot about how our colleagues are feeling six months on from the national lockdown. It paints a worrying, but not surprising, picture about the health and wellbeing of a profession that has worked incredibly hard and in very difficult circumstances this year.

“I’m incredibly proud of the way the profession has adapted to working safely during COVID-19, but we know that it has taken its toll, for example with consults taking longer, needing to cover staff shortages, and dealing with anxious clients.

“BVA also shares the profession’s concerns about the impact on students and new graduates. EMS is the jewel in the crown of UK veterinary teaching and it’s frustrating that opportunities to gain practical training have been hampered by the COVID restrictions. The issue is at the top of our agenda with the RCVS and Vet Schools Council to make sure we can collectively support the next generation of vets through this difficult time.

“As the UK is braced for the second wave, we know we are much better prepared and far more able to work safely to do our bit to tackle the spread of Coronavirus. But it’s vital that we continue to support one another, as well as continuing the spirit of collaboration with neighbouring practices that helped us get through the height of the pandemic.

“We are reflecting on all the findings of the survey to make sure BVA is able to continue supporting the profession with all of the challenges of COVID-19 and we’re always keen to hear from members.”

BVA members can contact c19@bva.co.uk with any Covid-19 questions or concerns.

All members of the veterinary community can contact Vetlife 24/7 for confidential support at 0303 040 2551 or email via the website.

The snapshot survey on COVID-19 is available to view online.