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How to improve wellbeing in vets

Dr Elinor O'Connor has produced the guide with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

The psychological wellbeing of veterinary surgeons is a focus of attention within the profession, in part due to evidence of elevated suicide rates in vets. As Dr Elinor O'Connor explains: “Occupational stress has been suggested as a possible factor in poor psychological wellbeing in vets, but the literature relating to stress in veterinary work is limited.”

Dr O’Connor, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Psychology, previously received funding for a scoping study of work-related stress in veterinary surgeons. The study identified key stressors in veterinary practice and also personality characteristics that may be over-represented in vets and which may interact with work stressors to compromise psychological health.

She has since been working with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to develop a guide to tackling occupational stress in vets. 'A Guide to Enhancing Wellbeing and Managing Work Stress in the Veterinary Workplace’ was launched earlier this year at the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons/Veterinary Management Group Congress. Designed for anyone with an interest in the wellbeing of a veterinary team, it provides practical advice to veterinary workplaces on managing stress and promoting wellbeing.

Dr O’Connor said: “Addressing stress in veterinary work not only has benefits for the health and wellbeing of each person in the veterinary team, but the business case for reducing work-related stress is clear. Stress is associated with poorer performance, increased absenteeism and higher employee turnover. The wellbeing guide provides information about proven techniques for reducing stress at work combined with suggestions for how they might be applied in veterinary workplaces.”

Lizzie Lockett, CEO of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS),  said: “Stress at work is an important issue right across the veterinary team. It is sometimes considered just an acceptable part of working in an environment that can be difficult to control, but things can change. By making wellbeing a priority, practices can support individuals and help their team work better together, and thus provide the best treatment for the animals under their care. This guide unpacks some of the root causes of work-related stress and may be of particular interest to practice managers, line managers or health and safety officers.”

Ms Lockett and Dr O'Connor also presented a session on the guide to the British Small Animal Veterinary Association earlier this year. For a copy of the guide visit

Blog posts give the views of the author, and are not necessarily those of Alliance Manchester Business School and The University of Manchester.

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