Burnout has been recognized as an occupational disease and it is taking an especially heavy social and economic toll on the veterinary profession. A recent survey revealed that nearly 70% of veterinarians have lost a colleague to suicide. Veterinary medicine is becoming an increasingly unattractive career option – a 2021 AVMA study found that only 47% of veterinarians would recommend the profession, down from 76% in 2005. Other research from Cornell University estimated that the industry is losing $2 billion in revenue per year due to burnout and subsequent staff turnover. This highlights the critical need to develop systemic solutions to address emotional and physical well-being and work environment issues on the organizational level. It begins with identifying and eliminating the root causes of burnout.
Despite a common assumption, work overload is not the principal factor causing stress at work. Dr. Christina Maslach, an American social psychologist and professor emerita of psychology at the University of California-Berkeley, spent decades researching occupational burnout, and her Maslach Burnout Inventory is now considered a gold standard of assessing burnout among healthcare workers. In 1999, Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter presented a model titled “Six areas of worklife” analyzing the organizational context of burnout and its contributors.
The six dimensions – burnout triggers – are: control, workload, reward, community, fairness, and values. These findings suggest that the problem of burnout is far more complex – stemming from team culture, management style and the reward systems in place, and is highly driven by values as a moral compass that guides the organization.
At Galaxy Vets, we are data geeks when it comes to employee experience. We build our burnout prevention strategy using our own research and studies from other industries. In this paper, our experts share their learnings and actionable frameworks for veterinary practices. They will describe and discuss each burnout trigger, how it can emerge in veterinary professionals, and using their experience, provide some actionable tips to reassess management practices and eliminate those risk factors.
Six causes of burnout:
- Lack of control
- Insufficient reward
- Work overload
- Breakdown of community
- Conflict of values