Burnout is a real and serious phenomenon that affects professionals in every industry. It seems especially prevalent among caregiving professions, including veterinarians and veterinary team members. Mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion are signs of burnout and can leave affected individuals feeling apathetic or detached, deprived of the joy they once found in their work.
The internet is rich with resources and tips for preventing burnout. Strategies range from deep breathing and meditation to hybrid work arrangements. But, what can you do if you’re already burned out?
Here are five ways to recenter, replenish, and reignite your passion for veterinary medicine.
#1: Take a break!
There is no shame in using your paid time off (PTO) or vacation days. Yet somehow, every year at least 46% of Americans defer their well-earned days off—including available sick days—and choose to work their regular schedule. Although refusing to take breaks can feel like a sure way to climb the professional ladder or ensure your business reaches its maximum potential, your relentless pace can put you on the fast track to burnout.
If you are a veterinary practice owner and feel that you can’t afford to take time away from your business, consider hiring a relief veterinarian—or two—to fill in while you are on leave. This ensures reliable service for your patients and clients, as well as your peace of mind. If a vacation simply isn’t practical or possible, reduce your hours or work one or two half-days per week. Then, dedicate this small window of time to rest and restoration.
#2: Talk to someone
Despite increased public awareness, many veterinary professionals still hide their mental health struggles. Yet those who are more open about their burnout, compassion fatigue, and depression can feel less isolated and can create an opportunity for collaborative solutions.
If you’re feeling burned out, don’t suffer in silence. Talk to a peer, mentor, partner, friend, therapist, or mental health professional.
#3: Revisit your roots and reflect on your original dream
Whether your getaway is an official vacation or simply sitting in your car during your lunch break, take time to revisit your personal “why.”
Think back to the things that drew you to veterinary medicine in the first place. Remember your first patient, your favorite subject in veterinary school, the first time you knew you’d found your calling? Do these memories still give you a sense of satisfaction and purpose? Do they hold clues that can help you find those feelings again?
For example, if nothing you do now compares to the rush you felt learning new surgical techniques, look for opportunities to grow your surgery skills and expand your practice offerings. Or, if your time in shelter medicine moved you, consider partnering your practice with a local rescue organization and providing low-cost care or donating your time to help with emergencies or spay/neuter events.
#4: Explore a new non-veterinary hobby or interest
Veterinary medicine can be all-consuming, but only if you let it. An unrelated interest, hobby, or passion outside the workplace can provide much-needed balance and stability to an often unpredictable work life.
If you’re experiencing burnout, non-veterinary interests can give you a new purpose and focus while you rest, recharge, and reprioritize your career. In addition to spending time with friends and family, you can also take advantage of opportunities outside your comfort zone, such less-used physical and cognitive skills, or new activities that require your full presence and focus. Being a beginner can be humbling and revitalizing!
#5: Find ways to enhance your workflow and reduce frustration
Inefficiency can contribute significantly to veterinary burnout. Small hangups and repetitive tasks during your daily workflow create cumulative stress, decrease productivity, and force you to work longer hours.
Start by examining your practice workflow and taking steps to maximize productivity and user satisfaction. Such changes may include:
- Reconfiguring your clinic layout
- Modifying clinic protocols (e.g., no appointments during surgery or lunch, requiring that work-in appointments be dropped off)
- Delegating tasks to other team members (e.g., technician utilization)
- Hiring additional staff
- Updating your practice management software
Shepherd Veterinary Software was designed by a veterinarian for veterinarians, and provides an intuitive workflow that works the way you work. Our simple interface and streamlined processes improve focus and efficiency, allowing you to complete tasks with fewer clicks, greater accuracy, and less frustration. And, because we are committed to the belief that all veterinarians deserve joy, each Shepherd feature, integration, and software update prioritizes the user—you! Running your business shouldn’t limit your ability to enjoy the rewards that first drew you to veterinary medicine.