A study carried out over 2020 and 2021 revealed that veterinary professionals who have goals are significantly less burned out than those who don’t. Authored by Veterinary Integration Solutions (VIS) and Galaxy Vets, the Burnout and Work-Life Balance Study assessed burnout rates among veterinarians, while also looking at factors that influence employee satisfaction.

The benefits of having professional goals

Among other factors, the study sought to determine whether goal-setting has a connection with burnout rate. The hypothesis was that veterinary professionals might be at higher risk of the under-challenge burnout subtype because of their high-achieving natures. Monotony, boredom, underutilization of skills, and lack of learning opportunities are some of the common contributors to this type of burnout.

The study showed that veterinary practitioners who have professional goals are less likely to feel burned out. Compared to peers who don’t set and record goals annually, these vets report feeling happier and more valued. This finding suggests that goal-setting can be an effective tool for protecting the mental well-being of veterinary professionals and employee retention.

“It’s a practical takeaway that can be immediately instrumentalized by veterinary professionals and practice leaders,” says Dr. Ivan Zak, founder of IVS and CEO at Galaxy Vets, a veterinary healthcare system co-owned by its employees.

Other key findings

  1. The study also found that burnout rate has increased in all groups of veterinary professionals over the past two years, with 2021 showing a significant increase even over 2020.
  2. Younger veterinary professionals under the age of 30 are the most burned-out group.
  3. Veterinary technicians revealed the highest burnout levels among all roles.
  4. Women report significantly higher burnout levels than men.
  5. There is a direct correlation between caseload and burnout rate, and between work-life balance and burnout.
  6. Respondents who indicated that their employers have a clear burnout prevention strategy revealed a significantly lower burnout rate than the rest.

Taking action

“There is a need to expand our understanding of veterinary professionals’ mental well-being, and by recognizing individual differences, take a more targeted approach to burnout prevention,” says Dr. Zak.

“Findings from this study will help us, and hopefully other veterinary practices, design a burnout prevention program that considers specific challenges different groups face, based on their age, gender identity, or role in the practice, and ultimately better tailor the work environment to their teams and needs,” adds Dr. Lauren Catenacci, Head of People and Culture at Galaxy Vets. “We are already building work-life balance and goal-setting features into the software that will be used by all employees — from the front-line staff to HQ executives.”

Study participants were asked what kind of actions they would like their employers to take in order to help them improve work-life balance by setting better boundaries. Most respondents cited hiring more staff, mandatory days off and vacation days, reduced caseloads, limiting work hours, and making sure there are breaks during the day.


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