While their schooling focused on pigs, veterinarians on the job spend a lot of time working with clients and members of their staff. After all, they must carry out a veterinarian’s health or production plan for the pigs.
“Our whole training in veterinary school is about the pigs, and we don’t spend a lot of time on the people,” reported Ross Kiehne, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minnesota.
“We just kind of put the plan together and away we go. Then we might come back and wonder why it didn’t work…And not understand that there’s human reasons why it didn’t work out, not pig reasons.”
Workers in hog barns generally want to see pigs do well, but difficult situations with the animals can lead to a breakdown in care.
“Some diseases are very devastating,” Kiehne said. “Sow death loss, for example, is really hard to watch.”
Veterinarians as well as clients should watch for signs of stress among staff. Kiehne said he sees some workers who exhibit their stress right away and then appear to get over it. But there are others who don’t show their stress and become quiet and introverted. These people may need to discuss the situation with someone else who understands such as a veterinarian or co-worker.
Veterinarians aren’t immune to stress either. Kiehne said he’s seen colleagues experience great stress and family hardship. His response was to help pick up their work.
Now he realizes his colleagues also need someone to talk to and understand the situation. He said he needs to be more cognizant of situations when people are stressed and want to talk about it.
“How do I consult in all that and keep up on it?” he continued. “I think the stress level is probably higher [today].”
Kiehne does see some changes occurring to help alleviate stress on veterinarians. For example, he’s hearing more colleagues take time off to coach a child’s team.
“It’s better realizing that there is some life outside of veterinarian medicine,” he said. “I think we need to continue to encourage that — not discourage [it by] saying no, you aren’t working hard enough or you’re not up early enough.”
Unfortunately, when younger veterinarians are struggling, they often won’t seek help from the more-seasoned veterinarians like Kiehne. Instead, he said older veterinarians need to make the first move to be available when someone looks like they need help.
Clients also become stressed, especially during down markets and in the winter when disease is more prevalent. Just offering to listen to the issues can help.
“Letting them understand that yes, they can be frustrated with it and they can be stressed, but they’re also very good at moving forward,” Kiehne added.