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A Guide to Managing Stress in Veterinary Medicine and How Your Vet Software Can Help

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As with many sectors of healthcare, veterinary medicine comes with a natural dose of everyday stress — but, there’s risk in that inevitable truth. If left unchecked, stress can progress into what the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies as an ‘occupational phenomenon’, caused by the result of unmanaged stress in the workplace.

In a recent survey, evaluated in a study called ‘The Economic Cost of Burnout in Veterinary Medicine’, nearly 87% of veterinary professionals reported Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL) scores in the moderate to high range. The same study reported that the “attributable cost of burnout of veterinarians to the U.S. industry is between $1 and $2 billion annually.”

That’s an incredible loss of both revenue and satisfaction among a group of healthcare workers that are so vital to the health and wellbeing of our communities — so, let’s focus on how we can prevent the loss.

In this blog, we’ll discuss:

Recognize Stress Before it Burns You Out

With reverence for all that vets accomplish and a concern for the impact of stress and burnout, we recently hosted a webinar with guest Dr. Marie Holowaychuk, a veterinary professional committed to empowering others in the vet world to live a healthy and balanced life.

She shared her best advice on effectively identifying, preventing, and managing stress and burnout with strategies for the workplace and beyond. One of her biggest takeaways was the importance of developing an understanding of the contributing occupational and lifestyle factors. When you can trace these causes, you can start to make changes:

Common Causes of Stress and Burnout

What’s also important to look out for, are the signs and symptoms of stress and burnout that you or any of your colleagues may experience, which can include these:

Common Signs of Stress and Burnout

According to Dr. Holowaychuk, veterinary team members tend to most often experience emotional exhaustion and cynicism. Such high levels of exposure to stress can also contribute to compassion fatigue. By becoming emotionally overextended from helping others, you may begin to experience indifference or impersonal behaviors toward patients, clients, or team members. You don’t have to experience all symptoms to be in a ‘burnout phase’ — even dealing with one is consistent with burnout. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“We’re all human, we are all flawed. None of us are perfect — we all make mistakes, we all struggle. You are not alone.” – Dr. Marie Holowaychuk

Strategies for Managing Stress and Preventing Burnout

What’s inevitable is that stress will always be present in medicine, so it’s important to establish expectations and focus on what can be controlled. Practicing stress management strategies produces a better chance of preventing burnout. During the webinar with Dr. Holowaychuk, she provided these tips:

1.Recognize the causes and symptoms

Pay attention to both the workplace and lifestyle factors that may be contributing to stress in the office, and stress you take home with you.

2. Prioritize Your Sleep

The restorative benefits of sleep are critical to maintaining physical and mental health, so don’t neglect it.

3. Maintain healthy habits

“Habit stacking” is a great way to build a sustainable, healthier routine. By attaching a new habit to an existing healthy habit — such as practicing gratitude while you brush your teeth — you can more effectively make it stick.

4. Practice mindfulness

A highly researched and proven way to reduce stress, practicing mindfulness through yoga, meditation, or body scanning teaches us to tune into our senses and forces us to be more present.

5. Set healthy boundaries

Unhealthy boundaries can turn into bad habits if we’re not careful. If you’re regularly working through breaks or not taking days off, it’s time to set new boundaries that protect your time, privacy, and wellbeing.

6. Know when and how to say ‘no’

Saying ‘no’ can be a healthy boundary. Even if you struggle with this one, there are ways to frame your decline with phrasing such as, “It’s hard for me to turn that down, but I’m going to have to say ‘no’ this time.”

7. Take time for self care

We can’t care for others if we don’t take care of ourselves. An ideal way to approach this is holistically, considering all emotional, social, financial, occupational, physical, environmental, spiritual, and intellectual facets of your overall wellness.

8. Separate your work and home life

Help signify to your mind and body when your work day has concluded by adding personal rituals to your routine that indicate the end of your shift. For example, clean up your desk just before you head out, or make your rounds saying goodbye to your colleagues, letting them know you’re leaving your work at work.

9. Stop aiming for perfection

Let go of perfection, it’s not going to happen. Maladaptive perfectionism is the setting of unrealistic goals that can burn you out. Instead, aim for ‘good enough’ and avoid comparisons to others.

10. Show yourself compassion

Vets spend so much of their day showing compassion for others, it’s important to also direct that compassion inward. Compassion has the ability to weaken an unhealthy relationship with perfectionism and can drive down the likelihood of stress or anxiety.

Your Vet Software Can Help Reduce Workplace Stress

When evaluating the stress management steps you can take to prevent or dissolve burnout, start from inside the workplace. The resources available and systems implemented in a veterinary office can have short-term and long-term impacts operationally. Your vet software, specifically, plays a critical role in your overall veterinary practice management. Lean on a vet software provider that can deliver what you need to streamline the operations of your practice and minimize stress.

With the right provider at your side, your vet software can become your single-source solution to help you manage every aspect of your practice, empowering you to:

DaySmart Vet is an all-in-one, cloud-based vet practice management software that helps vet professionals streamline everything in their practice so they can focus on bigger things:

Ultimately, if you find a vet software that can help you easily take care of the foundational responsibilities of running a vet practice, you can reduce stress, accomplish more, and have time to take care of yourself. Book a free demo and discover if DaySmart Vet is right for your practice.

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