According to a study published by the AVMA in September 2019, vet techs are up to 5 times more likely to die by suicide. Unlike veterinarians, the vet tech suicide risk by gender is reversed, with male vet techs being 5 times and female vet techs 2.3 times more at risk of suicide than the general population.
A study on burnout in the veterinary profession by Dr. Ivan Zakharenkov found that vet techs also suffer a higher rate of burnout than veterinarians. This is mostly likely due to their being paid much less despite often working longer hours, and being unappreciated, as pet parents who remember to thank the vet often don’t think to extend their thanks to the vet techs and assistants who also payed an important part in their pet’s recovery.
Vet tech suicide risk and burnout infographic
An infographic on the higher rate of suicide and burnout in veterinary technicians (vet techs or nurses in some countries). Accompanying blog post: Infographic: Vet tech suicide risk (5 times the general population) and burnout statistics
Why are vet techs so stressed?
- Vet techs are up to 5 times for at risk of dying by suicide than the general population
- 50% of vet techs burn out of the profession in their first 5 years
What causes this?
Vet techs often start work before and leave after the vets. It’s not uncommon for them to work 50-60 hours a week.
The average vet tech’s salary is $32,000 a year, which is about 1/3 the median salary of a veterinarian.
Pet parents often thank the vet but forget the techs who monitor, clean up, medicate, and care for pets in hospital.
Vet techs choose this career out of a love for animals and suffer compassion fatigue from dealing with sick and injured pets.
How can you help? Check out “Ways to help your vet” at VetsArePeopleToo.com
Hate the long wait times at the vet?
The extended wait times at vet hospitals these days is directly attributable to the mental health issues experienced by vet techs and assistants. The rise in pet ownership during the pandemic also brought a rise in verbal abuse of—and even physical threats to—vets and their staff by pet owners.
As described in my recent web story Going to the Vet in the Pandemic Puppy Age, one of the main reasons for longer wait times at vet clinics these days is because staff are quitting due to the stress of dealing with abusive pet owners.
Many pets already can’t get the care they need due to veterinary staffing shortages. As more vet techs and veterinarians burn out, more pets will suffer.
So, what can pet parents do to help?
The same suggestions for how to help your veterinarian apply to all vet staff. Please see the 3-part series of infographics I published last month on veterinarian suicide statistics, causes of suicidal ideation for veterinarians (which also apply to support staff), and ways in which pet parents can help lessen the burden for their veterinary carers.
In addition to the 7 ways you can help your vet,
- Thank the entire veterinary team with treats and/or a card. Since the vet techs and assistants spend most of their time working behind closed doors, consider sending some treats like cookies or donuts along with a card to thank everyone for their part in your pet’s recovery.
- Remember they’re not in charge. Vet techs may do a lot of the heavy lifting in your pet’s care, but they’re not in charge. If you have a problem with costs, treatment plans, wait times, or COVID protocols, taking it out on the vet techs or assistants is not only inappropriate but unproductive.
Please also see my previous blog post on the important role that vet techs (or vet nurses) play in the veterinary hospital and the care of your pet.
List of 7 ways in which pet owners can help lessen the mental and emotional burden on our vets and their support staff. More info on the 3-part series: 3-Part Series: The veterinarian mental health crisis, causes and how you can help
An infographic on the important role vet techs (or vet nurses) play in the care of pets at a vet hospital. Accompanying blog post: 8 important jobs done by vet techs in vet hospitals.