Simon R. Platt
BVM&S, MRCVS, DACVIM (Neurology), DECVN
University of Georgia
College of Veterinary Medicine
Simon R. Platt, BVM&S, MRCVS, DACVIM (Neurology), DECVN, is a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. His research interests include ischemic disease of the central nervous system, canine brain tumors, and epilepsy.
Dr. Platt is a member of the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force and a founding member of the Southeastern Veterinary Neurology Group. He has authored or coauthored more than 190 journal articles and 50 book chapters and is the co-editor of three textbooks: BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Neurology, Manual of Small Animal Neurological Emergencies, and Canine and Feline Epilepsy: Diagnosis and Management. Dr. Platt received his veterinary degree from University of Edinburgh (Scotland) and completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery at Ontario Veterinary College (University of Guelph) and residency in neurology and neurosurgery at University of Florida.Read Articles Written by Simon R. Platt
Over the past few years there has been a continual rise in positive psychology, the science of positive subjective experiences and positive traits. However, much of what we read or hear continues to emphasize the negative aspects of the veterinary profession. Understanding our daily challenges and risks is obviously important in helping those who are hurting in our profession and limiting exposure for our future veterinarians. However, we need to ensure that positive factors associated with wellbeing are also being addressed. We are talking not about ignoring the dark side but about having an equal need to understand the bright side.
“Happiness is not out there for us to find. The reason that it’s not out there is that it’s inside us.”
— Sonja Lyubomirsky
The work done in the area of positive psychology has focused on how we increase our happiness and flourish in all aspects of our lives. Those of us who are able to work for an income hope that our work plays a central role in providing purpose, fulfilment, challenge, and the opportunity for social contact. This is, in essence, job satisfaction. Over the past decade, we have become all too aware of the negative aspects of this work, including stress, depression, and compassion fatigue. This has placed a dark cloud over our profession. A recent study discovered that there is a 15:1 ratio of negative to positive work-related literature, meaning that we are becoming rightfully aware of what our problems are but are neglectfully ignorant of how we are doing in improving the situation.1 The same imbalance exists within us all when we consider our mental health—the focus is on its relationship to mental illness and not as much on our capacity to flourish. We all are now aware of compassion fatigue and what it means to us, but how many of us know about compassion satisfaction? This refers to the pleasure that care providers receive from helping others, with meaningful work being significantly related to wellbeing.
A large-scale study of 26 occupational groups—including teachers, accountants, and prison officers—found veterinarians ranked 13th on job satisfaction.2 Given the overwhelming focus on mental health in the profession, this result appears better than expected. Yet, this study focused on work stressors rather than job satisfaction. If we focus on what it is that defines job satisfaction in our profession, we may start to balance out the reduction of our daily negatives with the implementation of our daily positives. Experiencing positive emotions has been linked to a broad range of positive outcomes, including longer lifespan and prevention of illness. However, veterinarians have been found to experience more negative emotions at work compared to the general population.3 This highlights the need to understand which job resources cultivate positive emotions and may be seminal in developing organizational interventions such as formalized peer support models and clinical supervision sessions.
We are not talking about ignoring reality or failing to address issues by simply putting on a happy face. But we are talking about answering a critical question: “What defines us as professionals?” Exploring the answer to this question for every member of the veterinary healthcare team may start us on the road to job satisfaction.
1Schaufeli W, Bakker A. Job demands, job resources, and their relationship with burnout and engagement: a multi-sample study. J Organ Behav. 2004;25(3):293-315.
2Johnson S, Cooper C, Cartwright S, et al. The experience of work-related stress across occupations. J Manag Psychol. 2005;20(2):178-187.
3Fritschi L, Morrison D, Shirangi A, Day L. Psychological wellbeing of Australian veterinarians. Aust Vet J. 2009;87(3):76-81.