Veterinarians in distress

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Vets in distress

Overwork, exhaustion, suicidal ideation: veterinarians are at their wit's end. So much so that the training of future veterinarians could better adapt to the realities of the job market.

Andrea Kelly, a veterinarian who was passionate about horse riding.

Her name was Andrea Kelly, she was 36 years old and she was very popular with her 600 clients in the Ottawa and Outaouais region. An equine veterinarian, she had her clinic south of Ottawa. On July 31, she took her own life. Her fiancé Marc Alarie is convinced that her work overload is the main reason that pushed her to commit suicide. They had talked about it together several times.

“When she bought the clinic, I saw the stress, the burden started to fall on her, I saw that she wasn't the same person anymore [… ] She had told me a bit about it, that she had thoughts, I suggested that she consult and she did not want to because she was a little afraid of losing her license. »

—Marc Alarie

Andrea had been looking to hire other vets for several months without being able to find any. It means you're on your own 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Every day you're on call […] She didn't want to go out anymore, the joy of living was gone.

By granting interviews, Marc Alarie wants to pay tribute to Andrea Kelly.

Marc Alarie gives interviews to pay tribute to the one he loved, but also to raise public awareness of the importance of consulting and also the difficulties of the profession. Across the country, veterinarians are overwhelmed, exhausted.

A study presented this fall at a Congress of the Order of Veterinary Physicians of Quebec concluded that 38% of Quebec veterinarians experience symptoms of burnout and that 16% of them even had suicidal thoughts in the week before the survey. Another Ontario study concluded that 26% of Canadian veterinarians would have considered suicide in 2020.

Young people are interested in the profession, but the veterinary medicine program at Saint- Hyacinthe, the only one in Quebec, is very limited. Ninety-six students graduate there each year. The good news: a new formation for 25 others will see the light of day in two years in Rimouski.

We are limited in terms of the spaces we have at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. That's why we opened a campus in Rimouski, to promote remote regions, explains Marie Archambault, vice-dean for academic and student affairs at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Montreal.

Julia Chamberlin, equine veterinarian

The lack is particularly glaring in the field of large animal care which is chosen by a minority of students. Julia Chamberlin, like Andrea Kelly, is an equine veterinarian. She alone takes care of a thousand horses and regularly works 80 hours a week. The Montérégie, where she works, is nevertheless the best served region in Quebec.

“At the top of Quebec, towards Tadoussac, the whole north shore, they have no one at all to do horses around there. There is a committee with the MAPAQ, Cheval Québec currently, we are on it to try to find solutions.

—Julia Chamberlin, Equine Veterinarian

The other issue, she says, is keeping new vets on the job. Almost 50% of veterinarians who start in equine practice drop out of equine practice. It's huge. We try to motivate these people to come, to show them the beauty of the practice, then when they get there, they find it too hard. Guards, weekends, evenings, the psychological that must also be managed with the clientele.

Work overload, exhaustion, suicidal thoughts: veterinarians are at their wit's end. So much so that the training of future veterinarians may have to adapt to the realities of the job market. Report by Jean-Sébastien Cloutier.

It is true that the relationship with customers is not always easy. One of the reasons is financial. Veterinary bills are often hefty. People are not used [in Canada] to paying for medical care. Medical care is expensive, equipment is expensive, drugs are expensive, says Julia Chamberlin.

Claudia Sauvé, who treats small animals, finds it the x27; hardest part of the job. Every day, constantly, we have to say why it is expensive. I think everyone has heard the phrase: "yeah, but we know you vets just do it for the cash!"

A human aspect that adds to the work overload that also plagues small animal clinics. Sixty percent of Canadian households have at least one cat or dog. A figure that was 58% before the pandemic. We have to turn patients away every day. That's something I didn't know before, says Claudia Sauvé. Routine appointments, it could be three weeks from now, surgeries, it could be January, February.

These horses are treated by equine veterinarians.

Andrea Kelly's gesture resonated with the veterinary medicine students of Saint-Hyacinthe as much as the difficulties they hear about the profession. Myriam Verge-Delisle, who is starting her fourth year, loves her training and is eager to practice the profession despite some apprehensions. The level of anxiety in our classes, in the faculty, for sure it is probably higher than average.

L' school supports them well during their studies, but a training reform is underway to better prepare them for the job market.

“ We are prepared for the exam, are we prepared enough for the field? I would be lying to you if I told you yes. »

— Myriam Verge-Delisle, 4th year veterinary medicine student

Yes, we can improve to enable future veterinarians to be even better to cope, to increase resilience, to cope with stress, then also to learn to set limits, concludes Vice-Dean Marie Archambault.

Let's talk about suicide can help you :

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