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“Veterinarians only have so much bandwidth. If you don’t want your vet to burn out, you probably need to implement some of these things we're going to discuss,” urges Lacey Fahrmeier, DVM, Valley Vet Supply technical service veterinarian.

In light of Mental Health Awareness Month, our attention is laser-focused on the shortage of rural veterinarians, combating soaring levels of burnout and navigating the ongoing mental health crisis affecting the veterinary profession.

“There is a lack of rural veterinary services and people wanting to come into our industry. It’s a crisis. We have to change the mentality and culture of our industry in order to make it a profession that people want to be a part of again,” says Dr. Fahrmeier, who also is a practicing veterinarian/owner at Stillwater Veterinary Clinic in Montana and represents the Private-Practice Predominantly Food Animal interests of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Veterinary Service.

The rural veterinary shortage is greater than ever before. In 2023, the United States Department of Agriculture reported 237 rural veterinary shortage areas across 47 states. Couple these statistics with the stark reality that veterinarians experience a suicide rate four times higher than the general population. To reduce unintentional daily stressors regularly faced by veterinary teams, let's delve into insights from Dr. Fahrmeier to help foster stronger connections and mindful adjustments.

1. Have a “daylight relationship” and a true partnership with your veterinarian.

“This is very important so that the only time a veterinarian sees you isn't just for emergencies. This allows for a true veterinary-client-patient relationship where your veterinarian really understands your operation and promotes the development of good herd health prevention plans. View your veterinarian as an asset to provide you with another set of eyes, someone to brainstorm ideas with about how to improve your operation – from not only a health perspective but also nutrition or technologies that could benefit your operation. I think that clients will find that it's well worth the investment to have that strong relationship with your veterinarian.”

2. Implement healthy boundaries and better communication.

“Because of the deep desire that veterinarians typically have to help animals and people, I think that lends itself to having difficulty with maintaining healthy boundaries. The results of that, unfortunately, can be seen in the high level of burnout in the veterinary profession. As with any good relationship, whether that's personal or professional, it does require (a) solid communication from both partners (b) understanding healthy boundaries (c) having mutual respect for one another and (d) sharing some common goals. Taking those principles and applying them to the relationship that you have with your veterinarian, making them a key team player, can better assist you with your operation. There are only so many hours in a day, and veterinarians only have so much time and energy. Concise communication on non-urgent items through channels like email is often really appreciated.”

3. Understand, with inflation, there may be potential increases in clinical services.

“Veterinarians are not trying to price gouge anyone, but with inflation and the cost of doing business, prices for veterinary services have had to go up to continue providing services in those communities. Historically, veterinarians have not been very good at making incremental price increases. Clinics seek to have technicians who stay in the profession and veterinarians be able to afford to purchase their own home and support their families. These aspects are made possible with support for your local veterinarian, and understanding.”

4. Prioritize safety for your veterinarian and their staff, always.

“Anything you can do to ensure the safety of the veterinarian and their team is really appreciated and crucial for them to be able to do their job and continue to serve the community. Do a walk-through of your handling facilities days before the appointment to ensure that all gates, chutes and any restraints you’ll be using are working properly. Make the veterinarian aware if there is something in particular that an animal is averse to or that frightens them, so that we can do the best we can to prevent them from being fearful and have a positive outcome to what we're trying to accomplish that day.”

5. Give potential emergency situations great thought.

“I recommend assessing the situation and asking yourself, ‘is this truly an emergency?’ As a client, if you can try to respect your veterinarian’s time and avoid after-hours communications, unless absolutely necessary, this will help decrease the level of burnout and make sure that veterinarians are available and have the energy, should an urgent health issue need to be addressed. In this case, acting quickly and calling your veterinarian before things are at a catastrophic level will result in a better outcome for both the animal and the people involved.”

In closing, Dr. Fahrmeier thoughtfully shared, “As a veterinarian, sometimes you just run out of resources in a day, and that that's where being flexible and understanding really does go a long way. We want to take care of the animals and our communities. And, if veterinarians can feel that you appreciate that we gave it our best effort, it really means a lot.”

Consider these best practices to help make a meaningful impact. Continue learning about animal health and more at

About Valley Vet Supply

Valley Vet Supply was founded in 1985 by veterinarians to provide customers with trusted animal health solutions. Building on over half a century of experience in veterinary medicine, Valley Vet Supply serves equine, pet and livestock owners with thousands of products and medications. With an in-house pharmacy that is licensed in all 50 states, and verified through the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), Valley Vet Supply is the dedicated source for customers’ horse, livestock and pet needs. For more information, please visit