The difference between compassion fatigue and burnout in veterinary medicine

February 12, 2021
Erica Tricarico, Managing Editor

Leadership and wellness coach Kristina Guldbrand explains how to distinguish compassion fatigue from burnout, plus offers tips to help veterinary professionals overcome them.

In veterinary medicine, burnout and compassion fatigue are often lumped together, but according to certified leadership and wellness coach Kristina Guldbrand, CVT, BS, CSP, they're actually quite different.

Compassion fatigue

Compassion fatigue and secondary posttraumatic stress are pretty much the same, she tells dvm360. It can be anything from making a traumatic mistake like causing harm to a patient to almost being bitten by a dog. "It can be different for everybody," she says. "What might be traumatic for me might not be traumatic for you."

Guldbrand urges those suffering from compassion fatigue to seek help from a licensed professional, especially if they are constantly barraged with toxic thoughts. While counseling can get expensive, there are some affordable options. Search for universities with a psychology department, she suggests. They often have clinics that offer counseling services using a sliding scale.


So what is burnout exactly? "It's chronic stress over a period of time that never lets up," she explains, adding that it can be more challenging than compassion fatigue to combat. The first step is taking ownership of your own well-being and not waiting for leadership or team members to do that for you, she says.

In this video, Guldbrand dives deeper into compassion fatigue and burnout, plus offers some useful strategies to help you live a happier and healthier life.