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4 Ways to Beat Burnout as a Veterinary Leader

Burnout is an epidemic in the veterinary profession, and not just amongst veterinarians, but their leaders too. Are you a leader rushed off your feet and suffering from stress? Are you reckoning with the encroaching shadow of burnout? Scared about leaving your team to crumble? Do you feel isolated or lonely?

In a survey of 614 HR leaders, 95% reported that burnout is the number one reason for people leaving their jobs. Veterinary leadership is a fast-paced, demanding job with many facets to juggle: the managerial tasks, the clinical/technical, and being there for your team as a great leader. Unfortunately, you are at risk of falling into burnout territory, and even worse, leaving the profession altogether.

Fear not. In this post, you will learn four steps that you can take as a veterinary leader to beat burnout. Remember to put them into action TODAY. When it comes to burnout, prevention is better than cure.

Go Back to Your ‘Why’

Being in a leadership position is a great place to be. And, you can make a real difference to the lives of animals. If you’re going through a stressful period, always remember your ‘why’: why you took up this role in the first place.

Perhaps you are an established veterinarian who worked up the ranks to become a leader, or you decided to take the plunge and open your own veterinary practice. Whatever the case, think back to the beginning of your journey and remember the passion you felt, the aspirations you had, at the time.

As a leader, you are doing one of the most important jobs on the planet, fulfilling your passion for providing the best care possible for animals. If there are tasks you are doing that do not contribute towards this ultimate vision, then assess whether they are completely necessary or whether you need to change the way you are doing things.

‘Working hard for something we don’t like is called stress. Working hard for something we like is called passion.

- Simon Sinek

Empower Team Members

Because you’re the leader, you’ll be asked a lot of questions by your team. A lot. This could be simple things, like double-checking which button to press, or tricky things like asking for a complete run-through of an operation.

At times, it can feel like you are being faced with a barrage of questions, and your banks are about to burst! However, please don’t ‘just do it’ yourself. The time-poor leader will ‘just do’ the little things that their vets ask them, instead of teaching them, because they think it will save time.

If you invest time into coaching your team, and make it one of your values to enrich them, this will save you time in the long term. Furthermore, it will impact positively overtime on the quality of care provided by your practice.

Part of being a great leader is coaching your team. If you take the time to show your vet how to use the machine properly, that’s another skill they can add to their growing list. It’s a win-win situation: spend the time now passing on your skills and helping your team to grow, so you can truly focus on being a leader in the long-term.

Recognise Your Team

When your team members are able to complete the new tasks you are teaching them, make sure you recognize this. This doesn’t have to be in the form of a pay rise. In fact, research has shown that recognition in the form of praise has a more poignant effect and is longer lasting than material reward.

Through recognition, you will ensure that your team keeps the hard work up, and you will avoid falling back into old habits and ‘just doing’ tasks that aren’t in your remit.

At the recent American Veterinary Medical Association’s convention, 85% of leaders said that stress and burnout were the top wellness issues affecting their teams. Even worse, 76% believe they do not have the resources, as leaders, to deal with such issues. Indeed, burnout runs throughout veterinary teams. As a leader, you must promote an open team culture where individuals feel they can voice their stresses.

Your Wellbeing

You should definitely be looking after your general well-being if you hope to remain a successful veterinary leader in the long term. Your well-being is the essential foundation for building resilience.

As well as the simple things that are too easily overlooked, such as exercise and eating healthily, you should not ignore the need to recharge your batteries.

Allan Ting likens recharging strategies to that of your mobile phone. Imagine it’s the middle of the day and your phone is on 5%. You need to give it a quick boost. Charge it for around 15 minutes and it might reach 20%, enough to last the rest of the day (just about). You can use these quick-boosting strategies for your own well-being. If you are feeling stressed in the middle of the day, go for a 10-minute walk. Meditate for 5 minutes in the staff room.

The overnight charge, when you need your phone to be 100% for the next day, is equivalent to you getting a good night’s sleep. It is recommended that you get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, however, research by Gallup shows that 40% of Americans aren’t even getting this. Ensure you have a proper bedtime routine, and reduce screen time before bed.

Finally, the system upgrade when everything is refreshed is like the essential time you must take out to rejuvenate. Get off the grid for a week or two, spend time with the people you love, embrace another culture. You will return to work feeling refreshed and able to be the best leader you can.

This is the formula for beating burnout: remember your ‘why’, empower team members, recognise your team, and look after yourself. Make sure you put these into practice, and not only will you become resilient against burnout, but you will reignite your passion as a veterinary leader and be able to perform your role to the best of your ability.

“A healthy mind has hundreds of aspirations, passions, and optimism for unbridled potentialities. An unhealthy mind only has one wish: to be healthy.”

- Allan Ting

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