Veterinary survey on the impact of menopause
A recent survey run by Veterinary Woman (VW) and SPVS has highlighted the impact of the menopause on working life, with three-quarters concerned about its impact on health, life and work.
The survey, “Menopause and the effect on veterinary professionals and teams”, had more than 250 responses, with 80% saying it had affected their health and half saying the impact on mental health had been moderate to severe.
Overall, 76% were concerned about the impact of the menopause on their health, life and work.
Fatigue, irritability, difficulty sleeping
The most commonly reported physical symptoms were fatigue, irritability and difficulty sleeping. Hot flushes, night sweats and joint pain were also common, with anxiety the most common mental health impact.
Some individuals said they had experiences clinical depression and some had had suicidal thoughts.
When asked, workplace measures said to be helpful for those going through the menopause included flexible working, help with heavy lifting and provision of fans or air conditioning.
Diary management to allow for breaks, and openness and understanding among colleagues, were also valued.
Predominantly female workforce
Most respondents were women of menopausal age, and chiefly vets and VNs, although practice managers and non-clinical staff also featured in the results.
Liz Barton, editor of VW, said: “As a predominantly female workforce, we cannot ignore the profound impact the menopause can have both on individuals and veterinary teams.
“The effects last for an average of seven years and impact a majority of women mid-career. As a profession we have an opportunity to lead this conversation as it’s beginning to open up across the wider media.”
Awareness of the impact of menopause was wide-ranging across age categories, but averaged 4.3 out of 10 for those 40 years old and younger, and increased to 7.4 out of 10 for those aged 41 and older.
Even with relatively high levels of awareness among respondents, 90% said they would like to know more about the impacts from either personal and/or business and human resource perspectives.
SPVS president Anna Judson said: ”Having experienced the effects of the menopause working as a practice owner, I wish I had known more about the impact and that I was not alone in how I was feeling.
“It’s time to break these taboos, open up the conversation and put in place measures to mitigate the impacts. In so doing, we will not only help individuals to continue to thrive in their careers, but also help practices to retain experienced staff at this challenging time of life.”
A free access webinar discussing menopause impacts and how to mitigate them is freely available to watch on the VW website.
My personal perspective
I am so pleased that this issue is being addressed, and the ways that we can support women suffering from menopause in the profession is being explored. I personally suffered menopause early in my life, and didn’t even know it. I was always exhausted, sometimes beyond belief; and often suffered from brain fog – which is just awful when working in a busy practice with all the thinking-power you need to do so effectively. I just thought I was overworking and getting old!
Unfortunately I seldom went to the doctor, as was never ‘ill’, and it wasn’t until fairly recently (having left clinical practice) that I had a great doctor who discussed all my options with me, and came up with some solutions that effectively changed my life.
Currently over half of veterinary surgeons and approximately 97% of veterinary nurses are female, and if we want them to continue working in the profession, that support has to be there.
There are some brilliant resources on the Vet Woman website, including a download of the report, a webinar presented by Dr Karen Morton, and a comprehensive article on this topic, which includes practical changes that can be made to make menopausal life in practice easier.