Occupational stress and coping strategies in experienced Australian veterinarians

Vet Rec. 2021 Jul;189(2):e202. doi: 10.1002/vetr.202. Epub 2021 Mar 1.


Background: Veterinarians have been identified as being at particularly high risk of stress in the workplace, this predisposes them to anxiety, depression and suicide. Previous quantitative studies have identified causes of stress and common coping strategies used by veterinarians. The current research aimed to gain a deeper understanding of the experience of veterinarian stress and ways of coping using qualitative methods.

Method: Twelve practicing small animal veterinarians in Australia were recruited. They took part individually in semi-structured research interviews. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to design the study and to analyse the transcripts.

Results: Analyses of the interview data identified an overarching theme: spending less time working in clinical settings and four main themes: Preoccupation, self-doubt, conflicting responsibilities (between care of the animal, the human client and financial demands of the business) and insufficient support.

Conclusion: The results give a deeper understanding of sources of stress and the difficulties experienced in coping. These findings can help explain why veterinarians are leaving the profession or reducing their work hours, as well as emphasize the importance of continuing education of veterinarians on self-care and coping with stress, help with resolving ethical dilemmas, and working as a team.

Keywords: burnout; coping; depression and anxiety; interpretative phenomenological analysis; stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Stress / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Veterinarians / psychology*
  • Veterinarians / statistics & numerical data