Galaxy Vets study reveals updated contributing factors to burnout

Veterinarian's Money Digest®Veterinarian's Money Digest® (September 2023)

Economic euthanasia, less financial stability, and more were some standout findings associated with burnout

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Galaxy Vets, an employee-owned veterinary healthcare system, published findings in a whitepaper1 from its third annual burnout survey looking at the state of mental well-being in the veterinary profession to help systemically address burnout. This year’s survey was conducted in the fall of 2022 and featured open-ended questions answered by 1,942 veterinary professionals in various roles and practice settings.

According to a company release,2 the study examined the economic welfare and compensation satisfaction of veterinary professionals and how financial freedom is associated with burnout. It analyzed the impact of feedback and support culture on the emotional well-being of employees, and the type of work arrangements veterinary professionals would value the most. The study also investigated how euthanasia procedures are connected to burnout, especially when they are performed for economic reasons. A separate section in the whitepaper describes feedback and ideas on how employers could enhance staff experience based on the input from the survey participants. Finally, there are recommendations and takeaways at the end of the study.

Some key findings included2:

Economic euthanasia is a significant contributor to burnout

On average, respondents reported euthanizing 17 pets per month, with 20% of those cases because clients could not afford treatment. The burnout rate and the number of pets that were euthanized were unrelated, however, burnout was significantly linked to the percentage of economic euthanasia. Staff who regularly performed euthanasia for clients who could not afford to further care for their pets reported higher burnout than staff who performed fewer cases of economic euthanasia.

Only respondents who reported that their hospital performed euthanasia were included in this analysis. These insights displayed the impact euthanasia has on veterinary professionals mental well-being, especially when a medical option is available.

On-call veterinary professionals are more burned-out

Almost every third respondent was required to be available at least 5 weeknights/weekends a month. Veterinary professionals who were on call reported higher burnout than those who were not, whether one was on call a few days a week or on most days, those who worked on call reported higher burnout rates than professionals who were not.

This finding implies that incorporating teletriage services, either by creating a virtual care team from existing employees, or partnering with a third-party provider, may help decrease workload for on-call doctors and alleviate some of their burnout.

Burnout returned to pre-pandemic level

The 2021 study demonstrated a substantial spike in burnout level compared to 2020, which can be explained by the COVID-19 pandemic and related complications for veterinary healthcare delivery and psychological distress for veterinary teams. However, between 2021-2022, burnout rates lowered, returning to what they were in 2020.

Practice managers, CSRs, assistants, and technicians report highest burnout rates

Trends from the data suggest that between 2020-2021, burnout rates increased throughout all roles, including veterinarians, and then rolled back in 2022. The only group whose burnout rate increased and remained high in comparison to other groups in 2022 were practice managers, spotlighting a group that may need special attention.

Professional fulfillment index was lowest for CSRs across all years

Between 2020 and 2022, veterinarians were the only ones who showed a significant change in the professional fulfillment index (PFI), a measure for positive rewards that come from one’s work. Their PFI decreased between 2020 and 2021 and then increased from 2021 to 2022. Customer service representatives (CSRs), though, reported the lowest professional fulfillment and it hasn’t increased over the years.

Lack of feedback and support culture has a correlation to burnout

Almost half of respondents (47.6%) said they didn’t feel heard by their employer when they offer feedback. Those who felt that their feedback was not valued by their employer were more likely to document higher degrees of burnout than those who felt like their feedback was important.

Additionally, it was revealed that support from peers, managers, and practice owners may also be a contributing factor to employee burnout. While 46.7% of respondents said they didn’t receive stress management support from their coworkers, 60.56% lacked support from their supervisors, and the least support came from practice owners (66.89%).

Professionals who feel less financially stable reported higher burnout

Another aim was to analyze whether veterinary professionals feel financially secure and how it is related to burnout. While 64% of respondents reported that their income didn’t sufficiently meet their needs; 72% of respondents didn’t feel adequately prepared for retirement. Analysis showed that those who felt less financially stable were also more likely to report higher burnout with this result similar across all roles.

The burnout level between veterinarians on commission and on salary wasn’t substantially different; however, those on commission felt more financially stable and more secure about retirement.

Ivan Zak, DVM, MBA, the researcher and Galaxy Vets CEO, stated: “This finding suggests that more research is needed to learn what compensation models would be most beneficial to mental health, teamwork, and motivation. On the one hand, the downside of a production model is that it can potentially push DVMs to generate revenue, multi-task, and work at a faster pace, oftentimes, at the expense of breaks during the day or even vacations, which can lead to burnout. On the other hand, as discovered in the survey, having more control over one’s finances and seeing a direct correlation between effort and reward has a positive impact on one’s well-being. It is worth exploring further how profit-sharing models can be applied to all roles in a hospital.”2


  1. The emotional toll of financial stress, work environment, and economic euthanasia. Galaxy Vets. March 2023. Accessed March 14, 2023.
  2. Economic euthanasia is a significant contributor to burnout - Galaxy Vets’ study. News release. Galaxy Vets. March 2023. Accessed March 14, 2023.
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