Battling The Burnout Blues

Imagine this scenario: Dr. Sarah is a successful veterinarian at a general practice in a small town. She has been working for years and is well-loved by her patients and their owners. But lately she had been feeling burned out from the long hours of her job, especially her overnight shifts.

One night Dr. Sarah was called at 1am for a patient that had been having diarrhea for the past two days. The pet was stable, active and still had a good appetite. Dr. Sarah advised a bland diet and scheduled the pet to be seen the next morning. The next day Dr. Sarah was exhausted from lack of sleep and was very fatigued during her appointments.

Have you ever felt like Dr. Sarah? By the time she realized how overworked she had become, she was knee deep in stress!

A survey of burnout among veterinary practitioners in the United States was published in the January 2021 issue of JAVMA. This study surveyed over 2,200 veterinary practitioners in the US to assess the prevalence and risk factors associated with burnout in the profession. The study found that over 50% of respondents reported experiencing high levels of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment, indicating burnout. Risk factors included working longer hours, lower job satisfaction, and higher levels of debt.

The field is both fulfilling and demanding. During long work hours, veterinarians frequently deal with emotional situations, such as euthanizing animals, and delivering bad news to pet owners. These experiences can take a toll on a veterinarian's emotional well-being. Over time, the emotional burden of caring for sick or injured animals can cause veterinarians to experience compassion fatigue.

Burnout and compassion fatigue leave behind some noticeable traces. The AVMA wrote that bottled-up emotions, sadness and apathy, and the inability to get pleasure from activities that previously were enjoyable are all symptoms of compassion fatigue. (Source: “Work and compassion fatigue”.) Some veterinarians may feel overwhelmed by the demands of their job, such as managing a busy caseload, managing high call volume, and training new staff. It's important for veterinarians to recognize the signs of burnout and seek help when needed, such as taking time off, seeking counseling, or changing their work environment.

How can tech-enabled services help Veterinarians mitigate feelings of burnout?

These kinds of services can offer various ways to help veterinarians diminish feelings of burnout. Here are a few examples:

  1. Practice management software: Remember the days of the spiral notebook for scheduling appointments? Those hand-written appointment and prescription refill reminder notices? Or those vintage triplicate invoice books for billing out clients? Practice Management Software revolutionized the way practices handled appointments, reminders, and billing, while it also centralized and digitized medical records. “A survey of veterinary practices found that practices that adopted practice management software reported a 25% reduction in time spent on administrative tasks and a 30% increase in client satisfaction" (Source: "Streamlining veterinary practice operations with practice management software" by T. S. Mahan and S. J. Bartlett, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2017) Tech-enabled' isn't scary at all! These virtual tools and services have already benefited veterinary practices.
  2. Telemedicine: Telemedicine services allow veterinarians to provide remote consultations, which can help reduce the workload associated with in-person appointments. Telemedicine can also make veterinary care more accessible to pet owners, which can help alleviate stress for veterinarians who feel overwhelmed by demand.
  3.  After-hours triage and virtual front desk services can help veterinarians solve burnout in several ways.  Reducing workload is one of the main benefits tech-enabled services provide Veterinarians. After-hours triage services can help reduce the workload on veterinarians by taking calls from pet owners outside of normal business hours. This can free up veterinarians to focus on other tasks, such as patient care, and reduce the likelihood of burnout.

Other ways these virtual tools can benefit vets include:

  1. Improved work-life balance: By outsourcing after-hours triage and front desk services, veterinarians can spend more time with their families and pursue hobbies or interests outside of work, which can help reduce stress and prevent burnout.

"A survey of veterinary practices found that practices offering after-hours triage services reported a 27% reduction in on-call time for veterinarians and a 34% reduction in on-call time for veterinary technicians. Additionally, practices offering after-hours triage reported higher staff morale and reduced staff turnover" (Source: "Effect of after-hours emergency telephone triage on veterinary practitioners' workloads and quality of life" by S. M. Rhind, et al., Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2018).

  1. Enhanced patient care: After-hours triage services can provide pet owners with immediate support when their pet is experiencing a medical emergency. By providing prompt and efficient care, these services can help improve patient outcomes and reduce stress for veterinarians who may feel overwhelmed by a high volume of emergency calls.
  2. Improved client communication: Virtual front desk services can help improve client communication by acting as a virtual extension of your veterinary team. This can reduce the number of phone calls and emails that veterinarians receive, freeing up their time and reducing stress.
  3. Cost-effective: Outsourcing after-hours triage and virtual front desk services can be cost-effective by deploying remote support staff for a fraction of the cost of employing and training new people. Not only that, remaining in-clinic CSRs and CVTs are freed up for patient care and handling in-person tasks with more focus. By reducing the workload on veterinarians, practices can improve their efficiency and productivity, which can help increase revenue and profitability.

Overall, tech-enabled services can offer valuable tools and resources to help veterinarians manage their workload, improve patient care, and prioritize their own well-being. By leveraging these services, veterinarians can mitigate feelings of burnout and maintain a healthy work environment. We have paid close attention to the symptoms of this problem and have the perfect solution for it. GuardianVets’ Virtual Services can meet any level of demand for your practice! Our triage team will sort non-urgent calls appropriately so you can focus on what you love: enhancing pet health and not feeling the stress!

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