Galaxy Vets presents findings from its third annual veterinary burnout survey titled, “The Emotional Toll of Financial Stress, Work Environment, and Euthanasia.” Led by Dr. Ivan Zak, CEO of Galaxy Vets, the continuing research aims to measure and compare the veterinary burnout rate with the previous years and find insights into the significant factors driving job satisfaction or contributing to emotional exhaustion and interpersonal disengagement. The 2022 survey included some open-ended questions to capture even more opinions from the industry.
An ER veterinarian who experienced severe burnout and found a new passion in entrepreneurship, Dr. Ivan Zak is committed to developing solutions that can help with burnout prevention on a systemic level. He began his studies in 2020 with an MBA thesis, “Implementation of Lean Thinking in Healthcare Organizations to Improve the Employee Experience.” In his dissertation, Dr. Zak suggested that lean thinking principles proposed by John Toussaint for human healthcare can be an effective way to prevent burnout in veterinary medicine. He continued his veterinary burnout research and in 2021, discovered that veterinary professionals who have goals reported significantly less burnout and feel happier and more valued than those who did not.
The 2022 survey used the same methodology from the previous years — the Brief Instrument to Assess Both Burnout and Professional Fulfillment in Physicians (PFI) that measures professional fulfillment (intrinsic positive reward derived from work) and burnout (work exhaustion and interpersonal disengagement), allowing for data comparison with an additional set of questions to further investigate the relationship between veterinary mental health and workplace culture, compensation, and euthanasia.
A separate section in the whitepaper discusses feedback and ideas on how employers could improve staff experience and work-life balance based on the input from the survey participants. Recommendations and takeaways conclude the study.
Thank you to all who participated in the survey! Your contribution was extremely valuable and allowed us to collect 1942 responses representing diverse voices from across the industry.
“I hope that our research will help veterinary leaders better understand their teams and adopt workflows, policies, and training that will drive employee happiness,” Dr. Ivan Zak, Galaxy Vets CEO.
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Here are a few of the major insights:
Do veterinarians feel their income meets their needs? Does commission-based compensation bring more financial security? What kind of work arrangements do veterinary professionals find most lucrative? What kinds of benefits and training would your veterinary staff value the most? Find answers to these questions and more in our report.
BURNOUT RETURNED TO PRE-PANDEMIC LEVEL
The 2021 study revealed a significant spike in burnout level compared to 2020, which can be explained by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent complications for veterinary healthcare delivery and psychological distress for the veterinary teams. However, between 2021-2022, burnout rates decreased, returning to what they were in 2020.
PRACTICE MANAGERS, CSRS, ASSISTANTS AND TECHNICIANS REPORT HIGHEST BURNOUT RATES
Trends from the data suggest that between 2020-2021, burnout rates increased across all roles, including veterinarians, and then rolled back in 2022. The only group whose burnout rate increased and remained high relative to everyone else in 2022 were practice managers, highlighting a group that may require special attention.
PROFESSIONAL FULFILLMENT INDEX WAS LOWEST FOR CSRS ACROSS ALL YEARS
Between 2020 and 2022, veterinarians were the only ones who showed a significant change in professional fulfillment index (PFI) – a measure for positive rewards derived from one’s work. Specifically, their PFI decreased between 2020 and 2021 and then increased from 2021 to 2022. Customer service representatives (CSRs), however, reported the lowest professional fulfilment and it hasn’t increased over the years.
ON-CALL VETERINARY PROFESSIONALS ARE MORE BURNT-OUT
Almost every third respondent was required to be available at least five weeknights/weekends per month. Veterinary professionals who were on call reported higher burnout than those who were not on call. Regardless of whether one was on call a few days a week or on most days, those who worked these on call reported higher burnout rates than professionals who were not on call. This finding suggests that there may be room for incorporating teletriage services – either by forming a virtual care team from existing employees, or partnering with a third-party provider – to reduce workload for on-call doctors and alleviate some of their burnout.
ECONOMIC EUTHANASIA IS A SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTOR TO BURNOUT
The study explored the relationship between burnout and euthanasia. Only those respondents who confirmed that their hospital performed euthanasias were included in the following analysis.
On average, respondents reported euthanizing 17 pets per month. 20% of those cases were due to clients not being able to afford treatment. While the burnout rate and the number of pets that were euthanized were unrelated, burnout was significantly linked to the percentage of economic euthanasias. Specifically, staff who regularly performed euthanasia for patients who could not afford to continue taking care of their pets reported higher burnout than staff who performed fewer cases of economic euthanasia.
This particular finding enhances existing research on drivers of burnout among veterinary staff and the potential mental toll that euthanasia can have on the staff in cases when there is a viable medical alternative.
Get more insights on burnout risk factors and causes of job-related anxiety, tips on workload management, as well as veterinarian, practice manager, assistant, CSR and veterinary technician burnout in our whitepaper.Download the Whitepaper