October 10 is World Mental Health Day. Veterinarians face singular challenges in their jobs, and the rates of suicide and depression are unusually high among U.S. veterinarians. It's critical that we take steps to care for our own emotional and mental health. Get started with the AVMA's self-assessment tool, and then use the following resources to begin nurturing your emotional well-being.
The Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) assessment is a widely validated, self-administered assessment tool that measures the negative and positive effects of helping others who are experiencing suffering and trauma. It can be used as a guide to assess your balance of positive and negative personal and work-related experiences. The tool is designed to provide introspection about oneself and one’s environment, and can become a starting point for change. Please note that the assessment is not a diagnostic test, and therefore no official diagnosis can be determined based on the results.
The tool can help you measure how you are being affected in three areas that are critical to mental wellness – compassion satisfaction, compassion stress, and compassion fatigue – and may help you identify areas where you want to focus your self-care. This audio introduction to the tool gives a good overview to help get you started. Once you have completed your assessment, return to avma.org/wellness to make use of the many resources available to help you.
Please Note: The ProQOL tool was developed originally by Beth Hudnall Stamm, PhD, for use among human health care providers. As a result, the language in the assessment reflects human-directed support and care. We have requested permission to modify some of the wording in the tool. In the interim, when taking the ProQOL assessment, please consider the following language substitutions where applicable: 1) replace person with patient and/or client, and 2) replace people with patients and/or clients.
Compassion Satisfaction: A degree of fulfillment, sense of purpose and satisfaction derived from working as a care provider. This can involve positive feelings toward colleagues, contributions to the work environment and/or gratification from caregiving.
Compassion Stress: The unavoidable stress experienced when helping others in distress or harm’s way. This stress is expected, natural and unavoidable in the healthcare field and is derived from a sense of responsibility and desire to alleviate suffering. Unless addressed, compassion stress can escalate to compassion fatigue.
Compassion Fatigue: A state of exhaustion and biologic, physiologic and emotional dysfunction resulting from prolonged exposure to compassion stress. Individuals that experience compassion fatigue feel overwhelmed from bearing the suffering of others, but typically continue to engage in self-sacrifice in the interest of their patients and clients. Factors that place individuals more at risk for experiencing compassion fatigue are high empathy, a history of traumatic experiences, and the existence of unresolved trauma. Factors that affect the severity of compassion fatigue are the duration of the experience, the potential for recurrence, exposure to death and dying, and the presence of a moral conflict.
Burnout: A psychological syndrome that involves prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job. Burnout is typified by emotional exhaustion, cynicism, personal inefficiency and ineffectiveness in the work environment.