Enforce a Maximum 40 hour Working week for Veterinarians
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Veterinary Surgeons all over the world are expected to work more than 40 hours a week as standard and many young graduates are expected to sign out of the even higher currently legal UK 48 hour working week in order to gain employment.
They are also expected to work overtime when needed and that overtime is generally unpaid. After working unpaid overtime sometimes till the early hours of the morning, they are expected to arrive at work punctually the next day and be in a position to make potentially life altering decisions. Insufficient sleep has been associated with increased risk-taking and poor decision-making under acute stress. (Uy et al, 2017) In this profession, a poor decision can mean the death of a patient and all the potential consequences that can follow that.
In a study in Japan on Karoshi, or ''Death by Overwork,'' subjective fatigue symptoms under unfavorable conditions of job-related stress was shown to be 8.9 to 9.4 working hours per day in men and 8.4 working hours per day in women.They concluded that special attention should be paid to employees whose working hours exceed these threshold amounts, after taking account individual conditions of job-related stress. (Suwazono et al, 2008)
Long hours, for example the average 11 hour working day plus working weekends have been cited as a known work related stressor commonly experienced by veterinarians. Other stressors such as social isolation are also experienced, both of which can lead to significant psychological distress. (Bartram et al, 2010)
Long working hours also allow very little time to unwind and gain perspective in what is considered to be a very high stress profession with a high suicide rate (Fink-Miller et al, 2018) three times higher than the average rate for other professions. Risk factors include job stressors, personality traits, access to lethal
medications, and unique work experiences (Fink-Miller et al, 2018)
Despite the acknowledged high suicide risk in the profession, few support structures exist that allow veterinarians to cope with the job related stress they experience. (Skipper et al, 2012).
Thus in a high stress profession, reducing working hours may provide a mechanism to allow veterinarians to make improved clinical decisions. Nobody wants to know their pet is being treated by someone with compromised judgement due to stress and lack of sleep.
Reducing working hours may provide a mechanism to reduce suicide rates in the profession, by allowing time to reduce stress through being away from the high stress environment of the workplace and by social interaction, for example having the time to join a club or take part in a sport.
On a personal note: This petition was brought on by the admission of a young new graduate colleague that she had worked approximately 70 hours in one week and the feeling that she wasn't able to continue to cope working at that level. The general feeling voiced by older members of the profession that "They all had to work those hours" doesn't make it right. It doesn't make for good patient care and it doesn't make for a great working environment.
We ask that the maximum working hours for full time employed veterinarians be 40 hours a week, without a reduction in salary. Please sign my petition to improve working conditions for veterinarians.
Bartram D.J., Baldwin D.S. (2010) 'Veterinary surgeons and suicide: a
structured review of possible influences on increased risk' Veterinary
Record, 166, pp.388-397
Fink-Miller, E.L., Nestler, L.M. (2018) 'Suicide in physicians and veterinarians: risk factors and theories' Current Opinion in Psychology, 22, pp 23-26
Skipper, G.E., Williams, J.B. (2012) 'Failure to Acknowledge High Suicide Risk amoung Veterinarians' Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 39 (1), pp. 79-82
Suwazono, Y., Dochi. M., Kobayashi, E., Oishi, M., Okubo, Y., Tanaka, K., Sakata, K. (2008) 'Benchmark Duration of Work Hours for Development
of Fatigue Symptoms in Japanese Workers with Adjustment
for Job-Related Stress' Risk Analysis, 28 (6), pp. 1689-1698
Uy, J.P., Galvan, A. (2017) 'Sleep duration moderates the association between insula activation and risky decisions under stress in adolescents and adults' Neuropsycologica, 95, pp. 119-129
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