Unleashing Workplace Well-Being:
A Veterinary Take on the Surgeon General’s New Workplace Priorities

Philip Richmond, DVM, CAPP, CPHSA, CCFP | Flourishing Phoenix Veterinary Consultants | Published: Issue 3 2023

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In 2022, the U.S. Surgeon General outlined a set of priorities for workplace well-being that reflect the changing landscape of work in the post-pandemic era. Recognizing the importance of employee mental health and well-being as crucial factors for organizational success, these priorities focus on fostering a supportive and inclusive environment that adapts to the evolving psychological and emotional needs of the workforce. From addressing remote work challenges to prioritizing mental health and promoting equity, the Surgeon General’s 2022 priorities emphasize the essential role of employers in nurturing a healthy and engaged workforce. How can we take the U.S. Surgeon General’s priorities for mental well-being in workplaces and apply them to our veterinary hospital environments? How can protection from harm, connection to community, work-life harmony, mattering at work, and opportunities for growth — all centered around worker voice and equity — deliver reduced burnout, protection from psychological harm, and promote a flourishing workplace experience in veterinary medicine?

Here are the priorities seen through a veterinary lens:

  1. Protection from Harm: In veterinary hospitals, we’re all passionate about patient care. We must remember to take care of ourselves and our team members too! By establishing anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies, offering training to level-up skills of resiliency, managing compassion fatigue and burnout, improving access to mental health professionals, assessing job demand, and fostering a culture that values psychological safety and self-care, we can create that place where we all want to work.
  2. Connection to Community: You know that warm, fuzzy feeling when you’re part of a tight-knit group? Yep, a sense of belonging is a big part of our level of well-being at work. Onboarding with a focus on connection, team-building activities, social events, and open communication channels can help create strong connections between staff members, turning our hospitals into an oasis. We spend a significant percentage of our time at work. Why wouldn’t we want to make it as welcoming as possible?
  3. Work-Life Harmony: Let’s help our staff achieve a healthy work-life balance by offering flexible work arrangements and accommodating personal commitments. The old “leave stuff at the door” saying is just not possible. We bring our humanness with us wherever we go. How about providing resources for stress management, like mindfulness resources or exercise opportunities? Yes, it’s important, but it isn’t the whole answer.
  4. Mattering At Work: Who doesn’t want to feel valued, respected, and recognized for their hard work? Let’s make sure our veterinary team knows they’re making a difference. By providing regular feedback, professional development opportunities, and recognition programs, we can show our appreciation and let our teams know we care.
  5. Opportunity for Growth: Great things happen when we invest in our employees’ growth and development. By offering continuing education, skill-specific workshops, mentorship opportunities, and career advancement initiatives, our teams will be equipped to reach their full potential and thrive in their roles.

By focusing on these key priorities, we can create a supportive, inclusive, and downright enjoyable atmosphere for everyone.

Worker Voice and Equity: Let’s Talk!

This is the foundation and central focus of the Surgeon General’sinitiative. We want everyone to have a say in how things are run. To that point, have we intentionally created an environment where everyone feels safe to share and take risks? By actively seeking input from employees, ensuring their voices are heard, and creating a psychologically safe space for it — we can. We also create a more inclusive and equitable environment. Embrace diversity provides equal access to opportunities and resources, and value everyone’s unique perspectives and experiences. This is the way.

The Result? Happier, Healthier, and More Successful Veterinary Workplaces

By adapting these priorities for well-being to our individual veterinary environments, we can create that vision I had in veterinary school — like the show “Scrubs,” but better. Truly when we make these priorities our mission, when we focus on our teams’ voice and equity, we will watch our hospital transform into sustainable and rewarding places where we come to find joy, meaning, and purpose.

Dr. Philip Richmond, DVM, CAPP, CRT, CHC-BCS, CCFP

Dr. Philip Richmond is a graduate of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine (UFCVM) and is the medical director of Country Oaks Animal Hospital in New Port Richey, Florida. He currently serves as chair of both the Florida Veterinary Medical Association’s Outreach and Professional Wellness & Wellbeing Committee. He is a member of the Workplace Suicide Prevention & Postvention Committee (AAS/AFSP), The Veterinary Medical Association Executives Wellbeing Committee, and UFCVM Wellbeing Curriculum Committee. Dr.Richmond is one of 4 co-founders of the Veterinary Wellbeing Collective and the founder of Flourishing Phoenix, VeterinaryWellbeing & Engagement Consultants. He has also served on the board of directors of the Florida Medical Professionals Group, an organization that supports medical professionals in recovery in the state.

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