Younger Veterinary Professionals are More Vulnerable to Burnout

Many veterinarians are experiencing burnout and fatigue that can lead to an adverse health effect on the veterinarian. The longer a vet experiences this state, the higher are chances of them providing a lower standard of care and ultimately leaving the profession, if not worse.

Having personally experienced burnout, Veterinary Integration Solutions CEO Dr. Ivan Zak decided to find a solution in his MBA and make a sizable impact on the industry’s well-being. He researched the corporate management methodology that may decrease burnout and compassion fatigue in the veterinary domain.

Ivan conducted a survey to find reasonable solutions to help with burn out in the veterinary profession.

Thank you to everyone who helped contribute to this survey and research on burnout in the veterinary field. We managed to beat our target of 1000 responses and receive 1457 responses.

The problem of burnout in the veterinary industry

Burnout is a significant problem in the veterinary field. This is not only felt by veterinarians but also veterinary technicians, kennel assistants, and receptionist.  When looking at the problem of burnout in the veterinary field, we talked with Sandi Ryan, the practice manager at Delaware Valley Veterinary Hospital, to better understand why veterinarians may be feeling burned out today.  Since the COVID pandemic has started, there has been an increase in burn out in the veterinary field.

“Due to the pandemic and people being at home, there is a huge amount of new clients buying or adopting pets since now they are home and have the “time”. While this is great for the industry, there are only so many hours in the day, and clients are extremely demanding with regard to needing immediate appointments, preventive services like shots or screening tests, – Sandi Ryan, Practice Manager at Delaware Valley Veterinary Hospital, says. – First-time pet owners have many questions and concerns from food to chewing to littler box training, to crate training to housebreaking, and so on. This is the biggest source of stress for the entire team, being able to accommodate new pet owners in a non-face-to-face “drive-through” experience.”

The COVID pandemic has caused even more stress and burnout in the veterinarian field. This pandemic has created added stress and forced veterinary businesses to function differently. This causes more frustration between pet owners and veterinarians. This stress and frustration can cause burn out to occur even more quickly. We will talk about other findings of the survey in the following articles.

The burnout level is very high and remains a severe problem

Many veterinarians feel burned out, which is a serious problem that we face in veterinary medicine. The AVMA released an article in October of 2020 that showed that only 1/3rd of veterinarians would recommend this profession. At the same time, this can affect the future of the veterinary field, with fewer people becoming vets to replace the older generations, causing a shortage of veterinarians

These vets who experience burnout reach for other measures to escape from this field.

Younger vet professionals (under 30) are more vulnerable to burnout

The survey revealed some predictable outcomes, proving that burnout is one of the most significant issues negatively affecting the veterinary profession. While most vet professionals find their work meaningful and their job satisfaction is generally high, the degree of burnout due to work demands is increasing. Respondents showed a dangerously high level of distress, signs of physical and emotional exhaustion, and felt a sense of dread when thinking about work they had to do.

Veterinary Burnout: meanscore for all the participants

At the same time, Ivan Zak made some unexpected discoveries, and one of them was a direct correlation between the age of the respondent and the burnout rate. According to the survey results, the age group under 30 (which constituted 27 percent of respondents), showed the most significant burnout among veterinary professionals.

Aside from burnout, Ivan Zak also collected information regarding levels of physical energy and enthusiasm while at work. The results indicated the same relationship; professionals in the younger age group were less enthusiastic and more physically exhausted than their peers in other age groups. Veterinary Burnout: Mean score by age groups

“The reason for higher burnout can be that the younger generation places more emphasis on the work-life balance. It’s harder for them to handle long hours or experience frustration from other factors such as the lack of control when dealing with problems at work. Looking to address this problem in my dissertation, I have considered a correlation between veterinary and human healthcare industries and proposed that implementing lean thinking methodology can help support veterinary employees’ mental well-being and keep their motivation levels high,” Dr. Zak says.

Why we continue with the burnout research

Burnout is a problem that cannot be ignored. It undermines the whole veterinary industry’s future and ultimately disrupts a huge portion of almost half of the households in the US. By realizing the factors contributing to burnout, we can help change how veterinarians feel about their profession and hopefully increase the number of people who would recommend this profession to younger generations. 

Changing the negativities with the profession will help the well-being of the veterinarian, which will, in turn, have a more positive outcome for the patients.

Part 2Technicians Under Stress: The Highest Level of Burnout in The Survey

Part 3Veterinary Consolidators Can Apply Lean Principles to Prevent Employee Turnaround Post-Acquisition

Survey Results Whitepaper and Data Analytics