March 19, 2023
More Pets, Less Vets: Battling Veterinarian Burnout in a Post-COVID World
Veterinarian burnout has reached its boiling point. Now, animal care providers are searching for solutions to improve ROI and generate a healthy work-life balance for their employees.

If you’ve noticed more dog walkers on your block than usual, you’re not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the average household in many ways, with many now including wagging tails. Almost one in five households have acquired a cat or dog since 2020, accounting for 23 million US households. 

More pets in the home has sparked a higher demand for veterinary care. However, the supply of that care is dwindling. Many veterinary clinics are facing the effects of burnout from increasing work hours, climbing caseloads and staff numbers available at their facilities. In turn, clients are facing appointment delays and turnaround times, causing further frustrations with provider services. 

With the future of veterinary care in distress, many are seeking to address the causes of burnout and ways to solve an industry-wide crisis. 

Burnout at the Boiling Point 

The subject of burnout – defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) as “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and decreased professional efficacy” – has prevailed in recent years due to more pets in the household and the COVID-19 epidemic. Burnout, in addition to anxiety and depression, has historically affected veterinarians above other occupations – in a recent study by Merck Animal Health, veterinarians reported experiencing even higher levels of burnout than physicians.

Increased work hours, additional clerical work and high-stress environments are among the main contributing factors to burnout in the industry. These repercussions are felt across the team – the AVMA found that veterinary technicians were also at risk of burnout, feeling withdrawn from their positions due to their heavy workloads. 

Veterinarian Shortages

This towering burden doesn’t show any signs of stopping, either. An anticipated shortage of 15,000 veterinary technicians is expected through 2030, with 41,000 additional veterinarians needed to meet the needs of animal care in the coming years. But the many looming factors penetrating the field– including compassion fatigue and the inability for veterinarians to work top-of-license – dissuade many prospective students from even applying for school, despite the growing demand for veterinary services.

Vet Burnout Solutions

With burnout on the rise, immediate action to create healthy workplace solutions is becoming a top priority in many offices, starting with recognition of common warning signs. A lack of motivation, energy or participation in standard workplace practices are among the first signs to occur. Lashing out, struggling to achieve goals or self-isolating can also take place.

Protecting mental health is crucial to both personal wellbeing and re-invigorating a passion for veterinary staff’s original calling to care for animals. Providing counseling options, enacting employee recognition programs and encouraging professional development are just a few ways for veterinary staff to feel more valued. Promoting psychologically-healthy workplaces through open communication, health and safety, and a high level of trust, allows employees to feel empowered to do work with a lower level of stress. 

Finding ways to reduce the administrative burden on veterinary technicians so that they can work at the top of their training level is imperative to help reignite a dedication to animal healthcare. By bringing on additional team members who can focus solely on EHR documentation, charge capture and other administrative tasks, veterinary teams can focus on patient care and client satisfaction.

Ready to start alleviating your practice’s pain today?

ScribeAmerica’s nationally-recognized training program prepares veterinary scribes to provide comprehensive and quality medical record documentation and effective charge entry, allowing veterinarians to improve productivity and minimize the risk for burnout and turnover.