Burnout in Veterinary Managers
Flourish Veterinary Consulting recently conducted an extensive survey of veterinary technicians across the country to collect data on career satisfaction, stress management, and their perception of burnout in their job.
To my knowledge this is the first time this kind of data has been collected on the veterinary technicians workplace experience.
The results were both striking and heartbreaking.
Over 51% of the 1240 technicians reported currently experiencing moderate-to-substantial burnout. And only 46% of them feel they are equipped to cope with the day-to-day stress of their work.
Burnout has all sorts of negative consequences for the individual and the organization they work for. It’s clear this is a serious issue that needs more attention.
And it got me thinking.
We know leadership has a strong impact on things like employee well-being and organizational performance.
Which begs the question – are veterinary managers also struggling with workplace stress and burnout?
Well, I asked them. And here’s what I discovered.
Flourish Veterinary Consulting Survey of Veterinary Manager Work Satisfaction, Stress Management, and Burnout
In February, 2020, I created a brief survey specifically for veterinary managers.
The survey allowed for a relatively loos definition of “manager” to include Certified Veterinary Practice Managers and various role definitions such as Hospital Administrator, Office Manager, and “Other” management position. (Author’s Note – after the survey was launched it was pointed out to me the Veterinary Hospital Manager’s Association clearly defines 3 management roles. They are Hospital Administrator, Practice Manager, and Office Manager. As I had already launched the survey I did not correct for this omission though I suggest future surveys of this type consider all these roles)
As with the veterinary technician survey, I sought to measure the same factors relating to managers’ work experience; Career Satisfaction, Stress Management, and subjective perception of Burnout.
The survey was anonymous and voluntary. To solicit participation I shared an open link to it across my national professional network of veterinary managers as well as manager-only Facebook groups with presumed national membership.
The link was open for one week during which I received 161 manager responses.
Of the 161 respondents, the largest group identified as Hospital Administrators without the CVPM designation (41.6%). This was followed by Hospital Administrators with the CVPM designation (22.4%) and Office Managers without CVPM (17.4%). 12.4% identified as “Other” management title without CVPM.
I did not collect additional demographic data such as location, tenure, years’ experience, etc. though that would potentially be valuable information for future research.
When asked to rate their agreement with the statement, “Overall I find my work as a veterinary manager highly satisfying,” across the entire population 62.7% moderately agreed (score of 4 out of 5). 18% completely agreed. None of the respondents selected “completely disagree”.
This closely mirrored the results from the technician survey.
54.6% of managers believe they are moderately-to-completely equipped to cope with he daily stresses of their work. Comparatively, 31.7% believe they are moderately-to-completely unequipped to cope with work stress.
Overall, it appears, veterinary managers feel they are better equipped to manage work stress than technicians.
I also asked respondents to rate the stress management support they receive from their employees, the leadership team they are a part of, and hospital ownership.
The perception of stress management support from managers varies significantly depending on the group.
54.6% of managers moderately-to-completely agree they receive stress management support from their leadership team.
This number decreases to 47.9% when managers consider the stress management support they receive from hospital ownership.
Finally, only 42.9% of managers believe their employees support them in coping with the day to day stress of their work.
I provided survey participants with a simple, academic definition of burnout derived from the work of Christina Maslach, an expert in professional burnout. I then asked them to rate their current experience of burnout as a veterinary technician.
44.7% said they are currently experiencing moderate-to-substantial burnout in their work. 8.7% reported currently experiencing no burnout.
On the bright side, these results suggest veterinary managers are less prone to stress management struggles and burnout than veterinary technicians. Additionally, as with technicians, the vast majority of managers find the work they do in veterinary medicine highly satisfying.
That said, I am troubled to find that nearly half of veterinary managers currently find themselves struggling with burnout in their work. Especially considering how satisfying the work feels to them.
This hits home for me, in particular, as I have personally experienced extreme burnout as a hospital manager.
As with technicians and DVMs, I believe managers deserve to be sustainably fulfilled by the work they are drawn to.
When discussing the results of my technician survey I shared my intention to be a part of the solution. I’ve begun working on just that as I’ve begun a formal research study looking into the lived experience of subjective vitality among veterinary technicians.
In this first-of-its kind study I’ll be taking a deep dive into the factors that contribute to veterinary technicians feeling energized in their work (as opposed to the depleting experiences that contribute to burnout).
I’ll share more on my findings as the data collection and analysis progresses throughout 2020. My hope for this research is to uncover tangible practices we can apply to the veterinary workspace – for not only technicians, but ALL roles in the hospital – to enhance the work experience and contribute to all veterinary professionals finding sustainable fulfillment in their careers.
More to come. 😊