Telemedicine firm’s commitment to remote working paves way to support industry’s mental health crisis
Vet-AI, the research and development company behind online vet care app Joii, has reported its flexible working ethos has proven successful in supporting the mental wellbeing of the industry’s professionals.
Founded by experienced vets Robert Dawson and Sarah Warren, alongside tech entrepreneur Paul Hallett, Vet-AI was established with a mission to improve the mental health of veterinary professionals, while making pet care affordable and accessible for all pet owners. Their approach to flexibility and remote working has proven to be the key to reducing the worrying number of people leaving the profession or committing suicide due to stress.
A study of the firm’s vets and nurses in February 2021 revealed that 94% felt it was ‘very important’ to have flexible working conditions to improve their mental health and 74% said working for Joii Pet Care had improved their mental health. All participants said they felt connected and supported by the company because of the way it works to involve everybody wherever they are based. The company is keen to continue to increase its support for the profession and is committed to supporting remote working.
The business now employs more than 50 veterinary professionals worldwide and is expanding rapidly to cope with demand. A growing number of employees are now based outside of the UK; a ‘follow the sun’ approach which reduces the need for night shifts in the UK. The business employs veterinarians and nurses in Australia, across mainland Europe and even the Caribbean; as well as its UK based experts.
Skier, triathlete and mountain biker Nienke Oostra joined Vet-AI in 2019 and is combining her love of the great outdoors with her job as a vet, all while living in the French Alps with her beloved Border Collie Macdui. The 44-year-old vet has always had a passion for sports and animals but has been forced to choose between them in the past. That was until she started to work for Joii Pet Care.
By day, former professional athlete Nienke is found exploring the mountain ranges she has always dreamed of living among. Around her altitude adventures, she advises pet parents back in the UK via the Joii Pet Care app on all manner of pet health issues including skin conditions, digestive issues, and chronic disease management.
“I absolutely love being active; Joii offered so many opportunities for me personally and professionally because it’s the first time I’ve been able to fit both in my life and feel happy. I can work from anywhere, as I just need a good Wi-Fi connection,” she explained.
Nienke began working for Joii Pet Care having recently quit her role in a veterinary practice because of the long hours and stress. Long hours on her feet at work, coupled with fitting her athletic training into her days, led to injuries without the chance for recovery.
Working for Joii has allowed her to rest while being mentally challenged by the veterinary caseload she so enjoys. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK, demand for Joii’s remote consultations skyrocketed as the number of pets in the UK rose dramatically. It was then that Nienke started working as a small animals’ veterinarian for Joii, working flexible hours around her interests.
“I am so lucky because I feel at home in the mountains, it’s an incredible place to live. I have so much flexibility with the shifts I do for Joii, which means I can do everything I love while being financially stable. When I speak to customers in the UK, they think it’s brilliant and they’re often intrigued – they’re always grateful for the support we can offer them and it’s win-win for me and them – our customers and their pets are much more comfortable at home than they would be in a veterinary practice.”
Nienke explains how she would have left the industry without the option to work remotely and flexibly:
“I’d lost my passion for veterinary medicine in my previous role because of the demands on me and the damage it was having on my mental health. I would have absolutely left the profession if I hadn’t found Joii. That was such a hard thing to deal with as I love animals and have worked as a vet since graduating in 2002.
“The co-founders of Joii are just so positive and encouraging. I receive constructive feedback, career development opportunities and feel part of a fantastic team in my current job. I love being able to log on and work for Joii from right here in the French Alps.”
Nadine Cerny is a veterinary surgeon and has been promoted to team leader at Joii Pet Care since joining a year ago. Originally from Switzerland, she now lives in the Caribbean. The time difference means that she is available for UK pet parents for consultations during the night in the UK. She splits her time between Joii and running the charity Carriacou Animal Hospital.
Nadine said: “Working and living here means that I get to enjoy the lifestyle of Caribbean living without needing to commute. It also allows me to stay up to date with practising as a veterinarian in the UK and the developments within the veterinary world.
“I find it amazing how much we can help through a remote consultation and how positive the responses from customers are. I also enjoy the convenience of working from home – wherever home is. Joining the team in March 2020 was a huge opportunity for me as it allowed me to stay in Carriacou, while also being able to make a living. Previously, I had to travel to the UK to work as a locum vet.
“I was intrigued by Vet-AI’s mission and values with improving the lives and welfare of pets (and owners) with accessible vet care, as well as bringing more joy to pets, owners and our vet team, because it aligned so well with my own motivation and beliefs.”
Sarah Warren, Vet-AI and Joii Pet Care co-founder, said:
“When we first conceived the idea of Vet-AI we had two very simple and clear missions; the first was to make pet care more accessible and affordable for every pet owner on the planet, and the second was to improve the work-life balance of veterinary professionals. I am incredibly proud of the positive impact that our survey has shown that we are having on our clinical team, allowing them to do the job that they love, whilst prioritising their quality of life and enjoying the things that they love and makes them happiest.
“My primary focus within the business has been to create the culture and structure to support the team, which is why I prefer my title of ‘Chief Happiness Officer’. Indeed there is still much work to be done, so my job is far from complete! Our team is constantly growing because of the demand for digital healthcare in an ever-changing and challenging world and we embrace vets and nurses from all over the world who would like to work in their own time zones to help support our 24/7 round-the-clock care.
“The veterinary industry reports very high levels of stress and concerning statistics on depression and suicide. This is why we are so passionate about working with our team to improve their quality of life. We want to have a positive impact on people’s lives and we believe that with the use of innovative technologies we are improving the lives of pets and people.”