Front-Line Fatigue: Pandemic Pressures Pouncing on Taxed Veterinarians

Written by: Jenny Rollins
Published on: Dec 2, 2021

tired medical staff
Photo credit: ostill/Shutterstock

In the emergency room, Dr. Kara Tassone does CPR on one person's beloved pet on one table while her colleagues gives oxygen to another animal on the next table when the phone rings. One of the staff members rushes to answer in the back room only to be shouted at by an irate pet owner complaining about the extended wait time that has become typical among veterinarian hospitals and clinics during the pandemic.

"You can't tell that we're likely saving a life. You can't see it from outside of the room. You can't see the chaos," she said. "And of course, there's someone in the corner cuddling a kitten amid all the mess and criticism, because there's that happy aspect, too."

This kind of emotional roller coaster isn't new for veterinarians, but the pandemic has placed even more pressure on an overwhelmed system. Experts largely agree that the veterinarian industry has been facing a mental health crisis for a long time before COVID-19 emerged, to the point of having the highest suicide rate of any other profession.

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report analyzing 36 years of data that showed that during that entire time frame, the suicide rate for veterinarians was significantly higher than that of the general population.

A study released in January 2020 showed that veterinarians report higher levels of burnout than physicians despite working fewer hours and are 2.7 times more likely to attempt suicide than nonveterinarians.

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