According to a new study co-authored by a Cambridge Health Alliance psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School researcher, veterinarians often suffer from moral stress issues in the veterinary field.
The research was done by Lisa Moses and J. Wesley Boyd and will be published this month by the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine showing the stress placed on veterinarians that cause ethical conflict and other problems.
The study was done by surveying 889 veterinarians. It was found 69 percent were stressed out because they couldn’t provide enough care for the animals they treated.
Animal advocates tend to think of veterinarians as being driven by money. Vet visits today have doubled, tripled or quadrupled in price and pet owners as well as veterinarians have to make tough decisions.
Moses stated in an interview with The Boston Globe
“I believe that the common occurrence of having your personal moral compass challenged on a regular basis is a real dragging force.”
“I had this naïve thought that working with animals would be uplifting, exciting, and not necessarily have the same negative elements of practicing medicine on humans. The degree of distress among veterinarians was a surprise to me.”
Conflicts occur for several reasons including:
- not being able to cure an ill pet due to cost issues
- not being able to cure an ill pet due to the degree of illness (terminal)
- conflict with pet owner regarding unnecessary euthanasia
- needed euthanasia but the client refuses to let go
Moses also states compassion fatigue is often the cause of distress since few veterinarians receive training on how to cope. Not only do they face issues at work but also personal issues when they get home. Only 11 percent get help when they’re in emotional distress over whether or not they did the right thing for a client/pet.
Empathy over an animal patient decreased 25 percent over time as well as 33 percent over time toward pet owners, the study showed.
Veterinarians are also known to practice past the usual retirement age because they’re afraid their patients will suffer. They fail to take care of their own needs before that of the animals, which can create an entirely new set of problems, including misdiagnosing an animal.
We, as pet owners, need to stay on top of pet health for our furry family members. We also need to remember veterinarians are people too, often with the same personal issues in their private lives.