The data show room for improvement and an association between imbalance and burnout.
Poor work-life balance is a huge concern in the veterinary industry and one of the main reasons these professionals tend to leave the field, according to a recent study.1 Led by Veterinary Integration Solutions and Galaxy Vets, Burnout and Work-Life The 2021 Veterinary Balance Study revealed some thought-provoking facts about work-life balance, with the aim of encouraging change within the profession to promote the wellbeing of veterinarians.
The study found a positive relationship between professional fulfillment and work-life balance and a negative relationship between work-life balance and burnout.1 In other words: the lower the work-life balance, the higher the burnout – and vice versa.
The study also showed that work-life balance is a challenge for all veterinarians – especially women, who reported a significantly lower work-life balance than men
“There are probably many reasons [women report lower work-life balance than men]. One interpretation could be the traditional societal norms, in which women usually do more homework and / or care duties in addition to their full-time work responsibilities, ”said Lauren Catenacci, PhD, Head of People and Culture at Galaxy Vets, in an interview with dvm360®.
“Given that the majority of veterinarians are women, we will look into this relationship more closely in the future so we can really understand why it exists and, more importantly, how to restore balance,” she added.
In addition, the study found that every age group in the veterinary profession had similarly low work-life balances, with the exception of those over 61 years of age
Catenacci suggested that although the results show a link – no causality – some reasons for a more stable work-life balance in people over 61 are that they have adjusted to their case numbers in terms of retirement and that they have more financial stability, which enables them to limit their working hours, and are less likely to have young children who need more care and time outside of work.
With a breakdown by roles and specializations, the study also showed no major difference in the work-life balance. In addition, the average work-life balance score decreased with the number of patients per day, suggesting that sample size has a significant impact on work-life balance
“When we look at our results as a whole, it is reasonable to speculate that the high sample size could be a factor.” [to all roles and specializations revealing a similarly low work-life balance]. After all, the entire health team is involved in looking after the patients and their journey, and all members of the team can potentially suffer from work-life balance and subsequent burnout if the number of appointments is overwhelming, “said Catenacci.
Improving the work-life balance
Most study participants – 65.7% – said they would like management to help them achieve a better work-life balance.1 If you are a practice manager, the following methods are suggested to achieve this2:
- Avoid using compensation models that incentivize long hours.
- Offer flexible working hours and part-time work.
- Increase support for parents.
- Hire assistant veterinarians to ease the workload.
- Do not promote heroism.
- Communicate with your team and listen to them.
- Promote healthy off-site activities.
To help veterinarians improve their work-life balance on their own, the American Veterinary Medical Association3 suggests the following:
- Shorten your working hours (e.g. set flexible working hours, learn to say “no”, plan free time for important celebrations throughout the year).
- Implement positive changes in your workplace (e.g. not taking work home, going on time, having lunch outside of work at least once a week).
- Maximize time outside of work (e.g., keep a list of running errands for the organization, put tech aside when spending time with friends and family, meet friends and neighbors who can help Sharing tasks in child or elderly care).
The poor work-life balance is a problem that plagues the veterinary profession, and recent research shows that it affects everyone working in the field, despite the differences across the population. Since work-life balance is directly related to burnout, it is important that both practice managers and team members take the necessary steps to support work-life balance. In addition to improving the mental health of team members, these steps will also help keep veterinarians in an area that is already severely understaffed while allowing staff to retain their initial love and passion they had for veterinary medicine.
- Burnout and work-life balance study in the veterinary profession 2021. Veterinary Integration Solutions. November 10, 2021. Accessed December 9, 2021. https://vetintegrations.com/insights/burnout2021/
- 7 strategies to promote work-life balance for your veterinary team. dvm360®. October 1, 2021. Accessed December 13, 2021. https://www.dvm360.com/view/7-strategies-to-support-work-life-balance-for-your-veterinary-team
- Work-life balance and limits. American Veterinary Association. Accessed December 13, 2021. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/wellbeing/work-life-balance-boundaries