AVA to focus on wellness in 2022
AVA launches THRIVE, a veterinary wellness initiative, at the 2022 AVA Annual Conference in May
Over the past twelve months the AVA has been building on our previous endeavours, and that of the wider profession, to work towards a sustainable model for measurable, positive change to mental ill-health within our profession. Continuing on from our research into veterinary mental health and wellness (PDF), and the recommendations from this report, we are proud to be launching THRIVE – a veterinary wellness initiative that aims to support veterinarians and veterinary staff to lead satisfying, prosperous and healthy careers.
We are very much aware that there is no magic bullet to solving the multifactorial issues of poor mental health within our profession. This will take time and effort, which is why we are making this a key focus for the association. Our first step is the investment of a fulltime staff resource to help develop and manage the various programs that will underpin THRIVE.
In the coming months initial planned activities will be:
- Formation of a Wellness Steering Committee including members with lived experiences. A call for volunteers will occur this August.
- Development of an industry-specific mental health framework and suicide prevention strategy.
- Wellness ROUND TABLE with key stakeholders planned for October 2022, to help inform next steps.
- The development of a VET2VET peer support program pilot for release in the second quarter of 2023.
It will be important that all programs within THRIVE are guided by our policy Safeguarding and improving the mental health of the veterinary team. This outlines the importance of taking action to moderate work demands linked to occupational stress, while implementing interventions and resources to improve wellbeing targeted at the level of individuals, groups, leadership and organisations.
It is our aim to continue formulating the overarching industry frameworks and guidelines that will protect the wellbeing of all veterinary practitioners.
We are very excited to launch THRIVE; this sets the foundation of our future programs to prevent harm, promote the positives of the profession, and protect those in a crisis.
An update from March 2022
2022 has turned out to be yet another volatile year, with ongoing effects from the pandemic, industry-wide staff shortages, and the current flood crisis impacting vets in Queensland and NSW. These issues have the potential to negatively impact veterinarians’ mental health and wellbeing. This year, the AVA is continuing to prioritise 'wellness' as one of AVA’s key strategic directions.
AVA President Dr. Warwick Vale says, "The challenges to our profession so far in 2022 only reinforce the importance of mental health and wellness in our profession.
The AVA has been working with our partners Super Friend to turn what we learnt last year into action this year. More will come soon.
I encourage all members to think about the mental wellbeing of their teams, their colleagues and themselves. If you need help, please reach out to the AVA."
We have made a commitment to the profession to continue building our wellness initiatives, which will complement existing programs such as our MHFA training, the AVA Graduate Mentoring program, and our 24-hour counselling service.
2020 saw us launch Employer of Choice, a program designed to address the significant recruitment and retention issues impacting practices across the country. The scheme provides practices with support and guidance to assist with improving HR processes. This ensures veterinary professionals have peace of mind that their workplace is aligned to quality standards, and assists practices to maximise the full potential of their workforce by demonstrating effective employee recruitment, engagement and retention.
Our 2021 forum on veterinary workforce challenges was the largest online discussion forum held in AVA history. The forum, which was open to all members of the profession, facilitated robust discussion and brought the veterinary community together in a united aim: to innovate our thinking around the critical impact of veterinary workforce shortages.
Key takeaways from this impactful forum, as well as the veterinary wellness research project undertaken by AVA and SuperFriend, provided the necessary tools to develop a holistic, and comprehensive veterinary wellness strategy that will support the veterinary industry.
The AVA has recently applied for federal funding for suicide prevention training across the entire veterinary community through a 'National suicide prevention leadership and support grant'. If successful, we will have funding available to us over the next three years. We have also applied for a National Careers grant and provided a submission on mental health within the profession to Queensland Parliament.
Obtaining external financial resources to sustain our future plans in this space has not been our only focus since the report was made public. We have also been very vocal in advocating for the profession in the following ways:
- Lobbying government to recognise veterinary services as essential;
- Launching a zero-tolerance campaign pertaining to abusive client behaviour; and
- Speaking on various media channels promoting the importance of pet insurance.
Extensive work has also been started on a client education campaign designed to help customers understand the complexities of veterinary practice and recognise the importance of veterinarians in our communities.
AVA is now a proud signatory of the Veterinary Mind Matters initiative, helping to support mental health and wellbeing across the global veterinary community. We are committed to working together with other like-minded organisations who are prepared to make a real difference to veterinary mental health through:
- Advocacy – promoting the benefits of positive mental health
- Research – sharing resources and results
- Sharing of best practice – we are all facing similar issues that can be better resolved as a united voice.
Following the AVA Board review of recommendations from the SuperFriend report, the AVA has identified 'wellness' as a primary focus for the future. We are in the process of finalising our wellness strategy, one that will focus on an integrated approach to health and wellbeing: preventing harm, promoting the positive and protecting those in a crisis.
We look forward to launching our veterinary wellness program in the coming months, with an aim to share this with you all at our upcoming AVA Annual Conference in May.
Veterinary Wellness Stakeholder Research Report now available
A message from the AVA President, October 2021
As you are aware, over the course of this year the AVA has been building on our previous endeavours, and that of the wider profession, to work towards a sustainable model for measurable, positive change to mental ill-health within our profession.
We all share something of enormous value in common, and that is a great love of our profession and the desire to improve mental wellness to secure enjoyable and sustainable veterinary careers for not only ourselves, but for future generations. This is critical, and it is at the top of the AVA’s strategic priorities. The tragic effects of poor mental health experienced by too many of our peers, is leaving a gaping hole in the heart of our profession - a hole which I believe can and must be filled.
Our determined and carefully plotted path towards implementing a comprehensive and relevant mental health strategy has involved partnering with SuperFriend - an organisation that specialises in designing and delivering mental health initiatives - to assist us in developing a holistic, comprehensive veterinary wellness strategy that will support the entire industry.
You will recall that the initial stage of our strategy development involved SuperFriend conducting a literature review and desktop analysis to define the current state of play within the industry. From the information gained through this analysis, we then tailored focus group discussions and one-on-one interviews with stakeholders from all corners of the profession, to gain detailed information on psychosocial risk and protective factors that exist; an increased understanding of the key barriers and enablers to addressing mental health, and a broader representation of the ideas and opinions on the issues that exist, as well as identifying potential solutions.
The next vital step involved conducting a stakeholder survey to draw from the collective experience of the entire profession. Now, following the completion of our extensive research activities, SuperFriend has synthesised the collected insights from all stages of the project and provided us with a stakeholder report for consideration and appropriate action.
This report now provides us with the informed and representative data essential to developing an effective strategy. Our next steps will be to review the recommendations from this report in the context of our current landscape, and in combination with other data collected by the wider profession, develop a strategy capable of affecting the positive change essential to improving mental wellness within the profession, and in turn, facilitating sustainable and thriving careers.
As I have said many a time, there is no doubt in my mind that in order to succeed on this path so vital to the profession, a collaborative approach is essential. It will require all members from all corners of the profession to come together, and it will require each individual to reflect, and act on, how they can personally facilitate change for the betterment of the whole.
As the original founders of the AVA stated, “We are better together than alone”. It is true of almost everything we do as veterinarians, and it is particularly true for this journey towards improved mental wellness for us all.
PDF download: Webinar Q&A responses
Research findings and next steps: webinar invitation
A message from the AVA President, September 2021
[Webinar registrations now closed - link removed]
I am so excited and pleased to report that much has happened since my last veterinary wellness update to the profession. We have now reached the final leg of the strategy development journey, and are now able to present the combined results from our whole of profession stakeholder research into veterinary mental health and wellness.
This brings us significantly closer to the finish line, in developing a comprehensive mental wellness strategy for the entire profession, and it gives me great pleasure to be able to deliver this news just days away from Mental Health month. Whilst we continue to witness the effects of mental health issues on our beloved profession, we remain so incredibly aware of the urgent need for positive, meaningful and sustainable change. With the research component of strategic development complete, we now have the means to begin implementation of this change.
The response to our focus group discussions, one on one interviews, and industry-wide stakeholder survey has been overwhelming, with over 2500 respondents from all corners of the profession providing us with the rich data that we require, to ensure that the wellness strategy developed is one which accurately addresses the current state of play, and truly represents the voice of our profession.
I would like to extend an invitation to every person in the veterinary profession to attend our upcoming webinar which will take place on Tuesday 26 October, 7:30pm - 9:00pm (AEDT), presented by myself, and Carly Webster, Solutions Manager, Health and Wellbeing Professional, Superfriend.
We will share the findings from our research activities to date - presenting key insights into contributing factors to mental illness, workplace impacts on mental health including psychosocial risk and protective factors, ‘help seeking’ attitudes and behaviours, and practical solutions to improve the mental health of the profession. There will also be an opportunity for Q&A at the conclusion of the presentation.
I cannot stress enough, the importance of a united approach in tackling not only veterinary wellness, but all issues affecting the livelihood of veterinarians. I encourage every individual in this great profession to join us, so that together, we can secure ourselves a thriving and sustainable future. Together, we are stronger on all fronts.
Please be sure to put a placeholder in your diary for one of the most important webinars you will attend this year: Tuesday 26 October, 7:30pm - 9:00pm (AEDT).
We look forward to seeing you there.
Dr Warwick Vale
A message from the AVA President, July 2021
[Survey now closed - link removed]
As you are hopefully aware, the AVA has been working around the clock with our partner in mental health, Superfriend, to develop a comprehensive and holistic veterinary wellness strategy for the veterinary profession. Now, more than ever, we need to address each and every one of the causative factors of poor mental health within our profession - ensuring that they form part of the solution to build a thriving, sustainable profession - not only for ourselves to enjoy but for those who follow in our steps.
In the initial stage of the AVA Veterinary Wellness Project, Superfriend had completed a literature review and desktop analysis, providing us with a summary of the current state of the profession, as well as highlighting some of the risks, and protective factors, and determining gaps and opportunities in the interventions already in use.
The next step in the development of the strategy has been the undertaking of focus group discussions and one-on-one interviews with a variety of stakeholders from within the profession. The purpose of these discussions was to ‘bring to life’ the voice of the profession, to assist with shaping the development of a structured and comprehensive mental health strategy. The focus groups and interviews were highly effective in gaining: detailed information on psychosocial risk and protective factors that exist; an increased understanding of the key barriers and enablers to addressing mental health, and a broader representation of the ideas and opinions on the issues that exist, as well as identifying potential solutions.
Focus group stakeholders included representatives from the AVA Workforce Challenges Working Group, mental health thought leaders, individuals with lived experience, industry professionals, practice managers, entity groups, employed veterinarians, nurses, technicians, academics, researchers and veterinary boards.
The next vital step is to conduct a stakeholder survey which will draw from the collective experience of the entire profession. Following completion of the survey, Superfriend will synthesise the collected insights from all stages of this project and provide a stakeholder report to the AVA for consideration and appropriate action as part of the broader project plan.
We know that mental wellness within the profession is an extremely complex issue, and whilst we acknowledge that there will be no ‘easy fix', one thing is certain, and that is that the success of the strategy that we are working hard to develop is reliant upon the input of every member of the profession. We want, and need, to hear your voice, so please – complete the online survey, and contribute to bringing us one step closer to producing a veterinary wellness strategy with the power to create the positive change critical to securing a thriving and sustainable career for us all.
Dr Warwick Vale
Veterinary Wellness – a whole of industry approach
A message from the AVA President, May 2021
In our March 2021 edition of the AVA Digest, I outlined the work that the AVA has undertaken to support the long-term sustainability of veterinary services in Australia. I also shared with you, that veterinary wellness is at the top of our strategic priorities, and that we are in the process of developing a sustainable model for measurable change to mental health in the veterinary industry.
The AVA has engaged SuperFriend, an organisation that specialises in designing and delivering mental health initiatives, to help us develop a holistic, comprehensive veterinary wellness strategy that will support the veterinary industry.
SuperFriend have completed a literature review and desktop analysis; providing us with a summary of the current state of the industry, as well as identifying some of the risks, and protective factors, and determining gaps and opportunities in the interventions already used.
Both national and international approaches to mental health in the industry were included, to leverage global best practice and inform action now, and in the future, on making sustainable and measurable change to mental health in the veterinary industry.
We will share some of the insights from the SuperFriend review at our virtual conference - VetFest on the 12th of May at 7.15pm AEDT. A full report of the findings is also available here.
The voice of the profession is critical in addressing mental health and wellness. Our next key step is to gather further insights and opinions on risk and protective factors that exist, as well as help to shape some potential solutions to address these issues. We will do this by holding focus group discussions with a diverse group of veterinary industry stakeholders over the coming weeks.
Following these discussions, we will seek further consultation with you, in a planned member forum where we will share the outcomes from the focus group discussions and plan the next stages of the strategy development.
The veterinary wellness landscape across the Australian veterinary industry is complex and varied. I believe, that to positively impact the mental health of all veterinarians, we need to work together.
With the collegiate spirit of this amazing profession, we can achieve anything!
Dr Warwick Vale
*Image provided by the team at Austinmer Veterinary Hospital
About SuperFriend and the AVA
SuperFriend was recently engaged by AVA to complete a review of the current research and literature related to mental health and wellness in the veterinary industry as well as to provide guidance and best practice recommendationsfor future interventions.
SuperFriend aimed to provide a summary of the current state of the industry, identify psychosocial risk and protective factors, determine gaps in existing local and international interventions and provide recommendations on best practice approaches to addressing mental health and wellness across the industry.
This report provides a summary of these findings and form phase one of a broader piece of work between SuperFriend and the AVA.