IndeVets’ answer to burnout and compassion fatigue
Flexibility, relief from administrative duties, and community support lead to work-life balance
Content sponsored by IndeVets
It’s no secret that veterinary professionals are dealing with burnout and compassion fatigue. Findings from a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association revealed that 50.2% of veterinarians had high burnout scores and 58.9% of veterinarians had high secondary traumatic stress scores.1
What’s more, all the stress, high workload, and staffing shortages may be hurting the profession’s bottom line. Another group analyzed data from the same study, which included responses from more than 5000 veterinarians, to assess the economic impact of the resulting turnover, training, relocation, hiring bonuses, and decrease in staffing. They estimated that the burnout and compassion fatigue epidemic is costing the veterinary profession approximately $1 billion in lost revenue annually.2
That’s why it’s more important than ever to address mental health and self-care for the veterinary profession. Clinicians need to be able to offer high-quality care to animals in their community without sacrificing job satisfaction and well-being in the process. “The ethical responsibility...includes not just working really hard but also keeping oneself well so that you can continue in the work and help with the other people in the profession or in your clinics,” Elizabeth Strand, PhD, associate clinical professor and founding director of veterinary social work at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, said in an article for the American Veterinary Medical Association.3
Freedom and flexibility
A recent episode of dvm360® Live!™ tackled this topic with Andrew Heller, DVM, IndeVets cofounder, and IndeVet No. 1. Heller and host Adam Christman, DVM, MBA, discussed IndeVets’ approach to work-life balance and how providing freedom to veterinary professionals can help combat burnout. IndeVets supports individuals who are interested in relief veterinary work but don’t want to handle practice administrative work such as staff vacations, forms, and benefits.
IndeVets gives clinicians more flexibility and control over their day-to-day professional lives. IndeVets allows its veterinarians to decide when, where, and how often they work. “When you get to choose the shifts, choose the days you work, choose the hospitals you work at, and choose when you take vacations, and choose, choose, choose everything...It really does get you much closer to that…nirvana of a true work-life balance,” Heller said.
Variety and professional growth
Another way IndeVets tackles burnout is by providing its vets with variety and a path to growing their clinical skill set. Because they can work in different practices and handle a variety of cases, clinicians find themselves in situations they might not normally experience.
“It’s really amazing to be able to go into different practices, teach others about things that you do in the way that you work, and then also learn,” Heller said. “It’s a really great give and take.”
Focus on positive mental health and community
A key benefit of working for IndeVets, Heller said, is it not only allows vets the freedom to do what they want, but also gives them the freedom to avoid what they dislike. “That means not overworking [and] not being expected to do things that you don’t feel comfortable doing. We have a lot of doctors [who] never want to do surgery. And working with us, they don’t ever have to do surgery,” he said.
IndeVets has an employee assistance program that provides a variety of free counseling services to its vets. Associates also get a Choose Your Own Adventure Stipend™, which helps pay for anything that supports their physical or mental well-being. Some have used it for wellness programs, therapy, gym memberships, and even to purchase a Peleton.
Finally, IndeVets is dedicated to creating a community among its clinicians. All IndeVets are connected through Microsoft Teams and can turn to each other for assistance on cases. Every vet also has access to their area medical director, who is there specifically to support and advocate for their doctors. The IndeVets team does quarterly meetings and gets together for “buzz sessions,” where everyone can talk about difficult cases or other things they find interesting.
“When I hear stories of doctors, where their lives are just so much improved with our model…it really makes me happy I did this,” Heller said. “I was at a crossroads in my career…and it was like a light bulb that went off. ‘Wow, why hasn’t anybody done this before?’ This is amazing for veterinarians, so I hope more people see that and take advantage of it.”
- Ouedraogo FB, Lefebvre SL, Hansen CR, Brorsen BW. Compassion satisfaction, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress among full-time veterinarians in the United States (2016-2018). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2021;258(11):1259-1270. doi:10.2460/javma.258.11.1259
- Larkin M. Burnout’s economic toll on veterinarians calculated. JAVMAnews. December 8, 2021. Accessed August 1, 2022. www.avma.org/javma-news/2021-12-15/burnouts-economic-toll-veterinarians-calculated
- Work and compassion fatigue. American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed August 1, 2022. www.avma.org/resources-tools/wellbeing/work-and-compassion-fatigue