Survey Results Show Equine Veterinarians Struggling With Wellness, Burnout

The Stable Life initiative seeks to support veterinarians through resources and education

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Equine veterinarians giving a horse care
Photo by Pirita/Shutterstock

DULUTH, Ga. – With a dwindling number of veterinarians entering equine practice and existing practitioners leaving the industry altogether or shifting to small animal practice, many are concerned about a looming shortage of equine veterinarians. To help identify the specific issues facing this group, Boehringer Ingelheim conducted an anonymous survey of more than 100 equine veterinarians. The pain points identified by respondents fell into the following categories:

Personal Wellness

By far the leading area of concern was personal wellness with nearly 50% citing it as a challenge. Dealing with owners, colleagues, running a business, performing euthanasias and being on call takes a toll on equine veterinarians. And with fewer entering the profession, the pressure is increasing on those that remain. The toll is both physical and mental exhaustion.

Work/Life Balance

“Being able to take time off” and “being able to find relief vets with equine knowledge” were both cited as contributors to an undesirable work/life balance. Working long days and then being on call is particularly challenging for the equine veterinary professional. “It’s hard to say no,” said one respondent.

Marginal Wages  

Upon graduation from veterinary school, the average amount of student debt is $183,000. Often, after earning their four-year degree, new veterinarians go on to internships or residencies, deferring debt repayment and thereby accruing even more interest. Once they do start earning wages, the average starting associate salary, according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, is $89,000, making the debt-to-income ratio an uncomfortable range.

“The pay rate isn’t very desirable for the economy we are in,” noted one respondent.

Difficult Clients

While most respondents cited good client relationships as a plus to working in equine veterinary medicine, some indicated challenges related to their clientele, including collecting payments in a timely manner, unrealistic expectations and lack of respect. One respondent noted, “Some clients have very selfish attitudes and think they should dictate to the doctor what they want done.”

The Silver Lining

While the survey sought to better understand the challenges facing equine veterinarians, there were also some positive comments from respondents who remain upbeat about their career choice.

“I love feeling valued. Being able to go out and help people and their animals makes me feel like I do some good in the world.”

How Boehringer Ingelheim is Helping

Results of this survey are being used to help inform the development of a wellness initiative from Boehringer Ingelheim called The Stable Life, which is a wellness initiative dedicated to transforming the future of equine medicine and helping veterinarians thrive. Multiple Stable Life webinars and in-person presentations have already taken place, covering such topics as conflict management, practice growth and establishing boundaries. And more are on the way as well as financial and volunteer support of other groups and initiatives with a similar goal.

“We are doing a much better job as an industry of recognizing there is a problem in the equine veterinary profession,” says Sarah Reuss, VMD, DACVIM, technical manager, Boehringer Ingelheim Equine Health. “Part of the solution is to offer resources that will help veterinarians better manage their practices, their client relationships and their workload so their career is sustainable. While the survey results are certainly sobering, we plan to use them to better inform and guide the support we offer to veterinarians through The Stable Life.”

For more information about The Stable Life initiatives, talk to your Boehringer Ingelheim sales representative or professional services veterinarian.

— Edited Press Release

About Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health is working on first-class innovation for the prediction, prevention, and treatment of diseases in animals. For veterinarians, pet owners, producers, and governments in more than 150 countries, they offer a large and innovative portfolio of products and services to improve the health and well-being of companion animals and livestock.

Learn more about Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA.

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