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How to Avoid Burnout in Your Veterinary Team

Updated: Jun 1

One of the biggest risks those in the veterinary industry face, yet rarely talk about, is the very real possibility of burnout. In fact, according to a recent study by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) which evaluated job stress and satisfaction, more than 35% of those surveyed were considered to be at a “high risk of burnout.”

And it’s not just vets that are at risk, either. The study revealed that burnout is something every person on the team should be concerned about, from managers and technicians to assistants and receptionists. Burnout can lead to a whole host of problems for your practice, from low morale to high turnover to client dissatisfaction and even a negative impact on profitability.

The good news is, the study also revealed that strong team effectiveness can play a significant role in reducing the risk of burnout. Here are a few additional things you can do to further improve working conditions for your staff.

Increase Engagement

According to the JAVMA researchers, “Increasing work engagement may prevent and alleviate burnout by enhancing an individual employee’s energy, vigor, and resilience.” Another important discovery was the correlation between engagement and job satisfaction levels. There are a number of ways to improve individual engagement in a veterinary clinic setting. For instance, you should:

  1. Focus on making each employee feel like an integral part of the team.

  2. Acknowledge each individual’s contributions to the big picture and their role in the practice’s success.

  3. Encourage and promote personal and professional development opportunities.

  4. Empower employees by providing access to ongoing support and guidance as well as information about organizational decisions and activities.

  5. Provide ample resources to help team members perform their jobs at a high level.

  6. Offer plenty of opportunities for career growth and development.

Develop a Better Environment

Experts believe that creating and maintaining a coordinated team environment can dramatically improve the effectiveness and engagement of your employees. In order to develop this type of environment within your practice, the JAVMA study’s authors recommend several suggestions based on their research. They are as follows:

  1. Routinely evaluate the internal communications of your clinic to ensure that every team member has access to the most current, relevant information.

  2. Provide the opportunity for team members to give suggestions aimed at improving patient care, client service and internal operations.

  3. Recognize the contributions of your employees and provide them with knowledge and career development opportunities.

Eliminate Toxicity

The less toxic your workplace environment is, the less likely your team will be to experience burnout. Toxic team environments breed a lack of respect, distrust of management and overall employee dissatisfaction, which leads to higher turnover. To eliminate this within your clinic, researchers recommend employing the following steps:

  1. Establish and maintain a zero-tolerance policy for incivility among employees.

  2. Facilitate information sharing to build respect and foster trust.

  3. Improve HR practices to recruit and retain a higher caliber of workers (preferably those that are best suited for your clinic’s culture).

  4. Avoid overloading employees with too much work by either increasing staff or modifying/rotating individual work duties.

  5. Identify and resolve existing conflicts amongst team members efficiently.

  6. Always ensure that every employee is treated fairly and equitably.

Employee burnout is a very real problem in businesses of every industry, and the veterinary field is no exception. By acknowledging this fact and taking proactive measures, such as the recommendations listed above, you can reduce the risk of burnout for your team and keep your practice running like a well-oiled machine.

Our Advice on Avoiding Burnout in Your Veterinary Team in 2024

What specific metrics can veterinary practices use to assess the risk of burnout among their team members?

Veterinary practices can assess the risk of burnout among team members by tracking specific metrics such as employee turnover rates, absenteeism, and job satisfaction scores from regular surveys. Monitoring the frequency and duration of sick leave can indicate stress levels. Analyzing productivity metrics, such as task completion rates and errors, can highlight overwork. Conducting anonymous feedback surveys to gauge employee morale and engagement provides insights into workplace atmosphere. Regularly reviewing these metrics helps identify burnout risks early, allowing for timely interventions to support staff well-being and maintain a healthy work environment.

How can practices ensure that their efforts to increase employee engagement and job satisfaction are inclusive and equitable?

To ensure efforts to increase employee engagement and job satisfaction are inclusive and equitable, practices should implement regular, anonymous surveys to gather diverse feedback and identify unique needs across all roles. Establishing transparent communication channels allows every team member to voice concerns and suggestions. Providing equal access to professional development opportunities ensures all employees can grow. Tailoring recognition programs to celebrate diverse contributions fosters a sense of belonging. Regularly reviewing policies and practices for biases helps maintain fairness, ensuring that all employees feel valued and supported in their roles.

How can practices foster a culture of open communication and psychological safety?

Practices can foster a culture of open communication and psychological safety by establishing regular team meetings where all members can share ideas and concerns without fear of judgment. Encouraging leaders to model transparency and active listening sets a positive example. Implementing anonymous feedback mechanisms allows employees to voice issues safely. Providing training on effective communication and conflict resolution builds trust and respect among team members. Recognizing and addressing conflicts promptly ensures a harmonious work environment. These strategies create a supportive atmosphere where employees feel valued and secure in expressing themselves.

What role can professional development and continuing education play in keeping veterinary team members engaged and motivated?

Professional development and continuing education play a crucial role in keeping veterinary team members engaged and motivated by providing opportunities for skill enhancement and career growth. These initiatives demonstrate a commitment to employee advancement, fostering a sense of value and purpose. Access to the latest industry knowledge and techniques empowers staff to deliver high-quality care, boosting job satisfaction. Encouraging continuous learning through workshops, certifications, and conferences helps maintain enthusiasm and reduces burnout, ultimately contributing to a more dynamic and dedicated team within the practice.

How can practices foster a sense of purpose and meaning among team members, helping them to connect their daily work activities with the larger mission?

Practices can foster a sense of purpose and meaning among team members by clearly communicating the practice's mission and values, ensuring everyone understands how their roles contribute to broader goals. Regularly sharing success stories and patient outcomes highlights the impact of their work. Encouraging team involvement in setting goals and making decisions fosters ownership and alignment with the mission. Recognizing individual and team achievements reinforces their importance. Providing opportunities for staff to engage in community outreach or educational programs further connects their daily activities to a larger, meaningful purpose.

For more practice management tips, tricks, and expert advice, bookmark the DVMelite blog and check back often for fresh content.

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