At risk and vulnerable: The hidden costs weighing on veterinarians dealing with Ethically Challenging Situations

Fiona MacDermott

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

Abstract / Description of output

Ethically Challenging Situations (ECS) are commonly encountered by veterinarians, yet the impact of these experiences is only starting to receive attention. This survey used a mixed-methods online approach to assess the frequency, stressfulness, and impact of ECS on veterinariansas well as support and training available to and accessedby respondents. In total 100 veterinarians responded and reported that, in general, ECS were common and often stressful. Almost a third of respondents (n=32, 33%) faced ECS several times per month and over a third of respondents (n=35, 35% ) reported finding conflict between the interests of animals and clients very stressful. The survey used two validated scales; the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) and Impact of Event -Revised (IES-R) to consider the impact of ECS on respondents as well as free-text questions. A fifth of respondents (n=20, 20%) had low compassion satisfaction, high burnout, and high secondary traumatic stress scores on the Pro-QOL scale. This combination of scores is considered the most distressing. Most respondents found euthanasia of healthy animals ‘most stressful’and 30% scored at 24 or above on IES-R score, which indicates risk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The threat of, or actual violence (verbal, physical and sexual) against veterinarians was also reported by many respondents. Peer support was considered ‘very important/essential’by most respondents (83%) , and intuition was considered ‘most useful’for decision-making (56%). Respondents were open to training in veterinary ethics and alternative support structures. This report provides alarming insights into the lived experiences of veterinarians in Ireland, particularly regarding violence against veterinarians. The under-reporting of these experiences suggests a tendency to trauma denial that urgently needs to be addressed. The challenges faced by veterinarians when dealing with ECS must not be under-estimated and further work is needed to develop support structures and training opportunities to build resilience and a strong ethical base to face emerging challenges.
Original languageEnglish
  • Cousquer, Glen, Supervisor
  • Mullan, Siobhan, Supervisor, External person
Award date31 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • One Health
  • One Welfare
  • veterinary ethics
  • moral stress
  • Veterinarian
  • Violence
  • trauma awareness

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