The Business of Practice: Veterinarian Burnout

Dr. Colleen Best noted that one of the only things that veterinarians can change in the current climate of more demand than resources is our behavior. Brought to you by CareCredit

What do you need to “fill the bucket” after a hard week of being a veterinarian? Getty Images

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In Episode 32 of The Business of Practice podcast, we talked to Colleen Best, DVM, PhD, CCFP about Veterinarian Burnout. This is a follow-up to Episode 19 where Best offered suggestions about how veterinarians could battle burnout.

Why is this topic so critical for equine veterinarians at this time that we are discussing it again? “The demands [on equine veterinarians] are increasing in the face of no resources to keep up,” stated Best. That leads to increased burnout at a time when the equine veterinary industry can ill-afford to lose more practitioners.

She said this podcast for equine veterinarians is “an invitation to you and an opportunity for you to take more control; to shift your perceptions of what you do.”

Best said more demand for services is good for business, but it also “gives us a choice on where we set our boundaries and not to just ‘react.’ We need to acknowledge the position we are in when we want to say yes [to clients].”

She said as an overwhelmed vet student, “I had a motto: Something has to give, and it’s going to be me.” She now realizes how wrong that was for her well-being.

She said burnout affects the care we provide to our patients and clients, “and that’s scary.”

Best noted that one of the only things that we might change in the current climate of more demand for services than resources to serve those demands is our behavior.

“What do we need in our whole life to have enough ‘resources’ to do the job?” she asked. “Make a list! That might mean that some clients go away. But we need to be willing to say what we need to fill our bucket. Then once the bucket is empty, we need to fill it again. 

“We need to plan time off in July or reserve time off on Friday night for recovery,” she said. “Do you need connection with friends? Barn time? Quiet time? Family time? But remember that it is possible to be burned out at home, too.”

Best said you need to give yourself permission to “offload” some of your duties. “Constantly striving to do more and earn more … we only get one spin around the Earth. How much do you need to earn to be happy? Earning more won’t make you more happy.

“We don’t have the choice any more to say yes to everyone,” she stated.

Best also gave ways to say “no” to clients or potential clients so that you allow yourself an “out” of a situation you don’t want to be—or don’t have the resources to be—involved with. 

And it’s important to appreciate that clients made many decisions before they called you with an “emergency” that could have changed their outcomes. Their failure to plan or make good decisions before they called you is not your fault! 

“It’s important to realize you cannot control clients’ choices,” said Best. “Don’t let clients throw their ‘junk’ in your back yard. They have to understand they got into the position they are in because of their decisions. It might seem to them that it’s me, but it’s not me!”

Best also reminded veterinarians that we need to “be gentle with ourselves. These are hard behavior patterns to break or shift.”


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