Veterinary burnout is virtually an epidemic in our field. We give so much of ourselves to pets and their owners that we often forget to care for ourselves. The effects can be challenging at best and devastating at the worst.
While veterinary burnout runs rampant through veterinary medicine, BluePearl is not standing idly by. Not only do we offer many workplace wellness programs, but we also offer many mental health benefits and support services to our Associates.
With these resources, BluePearl isn’t just talking about battling burnout – we’re already in the arena.
Why are workplace wellness programs important in veterinary medicine?
As veterinary medicine professionals, we see and experience several emotionally taxing incidents every day. Experiencing that kind of psychological distress many times over in a day, week, month, and so on can profoundly affect our mental well-being.
Compassion fatigue & veterinary burnout rates are skyrocketing in veterinary medicine.
As noted in Veterinary Practice News, 49.6% of veterinary staff and 30.5% of veterinarians reported high levels of burnout in 2021. These are tangible, serious problems in our field, driving some to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms. Compassion fatigue and burnout are similar, but each has a few distinguishing factors.
What is compassion fatigue?
According to The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), compassion fatigue comes from constantly experiencing empathy for an ill or dying patient and “taking on the burden” yourself. With compassion fatigue, expressing empathy or compassion becomes increasingly difficult and exhausting because you’ve felt it so intensely for so long.
What is veterinary burnout?
Conversely, veterinary burnout is a psychological phenomenon stemming from a lack of control, anger, frustration, and exhaustion. It can lead to severe symptoms such as depression, insomnia, heart disease, or substance abuse.
Avoiding and addressing veterinary burnout requires conscious effort and often professional mental health care, particularly when it spirals into substance use disorders or suicidal ideation. As an organization, we recognize that there are many things we can do to support our Associates’ well-being and prevent burnout from taking total control.
Our commitment to battling veterinary burnout.
As veterinary professionals, we must find healthy outlets for our high stress levels and take care of ourselves before we can care for our patients. That’s why BluePearl is committed to providing our Associates with mental health resources and workplace wellness programs to tend to their own needs first. We are on a mission to combat and eradicate veterinary burnout, starting with giving our Associates the quality care they deserve.
“Caring for our Associates is at the center of everything we do,” says BluePearl’s president, Nicholas Nelson. “We consistently seek new ways to enhance our benefits to better support our Associates and their families today and in the future.”
At BluePearl, we don’t just talk about supporting our people. We put it into practice with several benefits, wellness programs, and a culture that prioritizes mental health.
Our action plan.
We offer paid time off & work-life balance.
Our hospital Associates – and all veterinary medicine professionals – are incredible human beings. They care for pets and their owners with such dedication and empathy, sometimes from the puppy or kitten stages through the senior years. So our Associates deserve the same dedication and care.
To lay a solid foundation of support, BluePearl offers paid time off to recharge and do the things you love, including floating holidays to use at your discretion. For example, our full-time clinicians are rarely on call and typically work 12 shifts per month to promote a healthy work-life balance.
We also offer flexible scheduling to accommodate unique lifestyles or scheduling needs that help you put your life, family, and wellness first.
BluePearl Associate benefits include:
- Paid time off
- Floating holidays
- Flexible scheduling
We have a health + well-being team.
One of our greatest weapons against veterinary burnout is our dedicated BluePearl health + well-being team. This outstanding group is made up of ten veterinary social workers, one wellness educator who is also a veterinarian, and several social work interns.
Our health + well-being team creates training programs for our Associates, develops and implements well-being initiatives, and gleans feedback from Associates to continuously improve our initiatives. While we offer many mental health support services and employee wellness programs, our health + well-being team ensures we’re offering the right resources that make a tangible difference for our Associates.
We launched a wellness ambassador program.
In the Spring of 2021, BluePearl introduced our wellness ambassador program, a groundbreaking initiative to promote and improve health and well-being among our Associates. Wellness ambassadors are peer-nominated Associates who serve as a trusted source for mental health resources, a listening ear, and other support for coworkers.
All BluePearl wellness ambassadors receive mental health first aid training to learn how to recognize signs of mental illness or substance use disorders and can provide appropriate intervention and support. The goal is timely response and assistance to those who may be experiencing mental health crises.
Wellness ambassadors are the primary liaison between our clinical staff and veterinary social work or leadership teams. They also promote and encourage Associate participation in wellness programs, events, and training from the BluePearl health + well-being team.
Overall goals of BluePearl’s wellness ambassador program:
- Normalize discussion around mental health and substance abuse challenges in our workplace environments.
- Reduce the stigma and promote compassion and understanding toward those experiencing mental health challenges.
- Teach Associates, wellness ambassadors, and leadership to recognize possible signs and symptoms of mental health crises and provide the appropriate responses.
We developed a clinicians-in-training program.
Our clinicians-in-training program focuses on interns, residents, and ER clinicians enrolled in our house officer and emERge™ programs. This wellness training program aims to educate new veterinary graduates on wellness early in their careers to prevent mental health crises later in life.
Members of this program participate in training sessions with our veterinary social workers or wellness educator while gaining valuable access to mental health and wellness resources. They also discuss how to handle myriad obstacles in their careers, ranging from imposter syndrome and conflicts with demanding owners to compassion fatigue and veterinary burnout.
We partnered with Lyra Health to provide more mental health support.
Our most recent effort to combat veterinary burnout is our partnership with Lyra Health. Through this program, launched in 2022, Associates and eligible family members can receive up to 12 free sessions with a therapist or mental health coach each year. And that’s in addition to the mental health benefits included in our health insurance coverage and the wellness programs listed above.
We genuinely believe in prioritizing mental health, and connecting our Associates with the caring professionals at Lyra Health is one way we can support their overall well-being. Lyra Health offers in-person and telehealth appointments, so all Associates can receive the same quality care no matter where they are.
Thanks to this partnership, Associates can confidently seek additional support and mental health treatment for stress, anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, sleep disorders, and many other behavioral health needs.
Jeffrey Horvath, BluePearl’s Vice President of People and Organization, believes that this initiative raises the bar for health and well-being within the veterinary field. “We have listened to our Associates’ feedback and understand there is a need for more comprehensive, individualized mental health support,” he said. “With this new resource, we hope that those struggling with mental health issues will get the care and support they need to feel better.”
Fighting for victory.
We realize that veterinary burnout and other mental health crises are taking a massive toll on veterinary professionals globally. But we also believe that we can play a significant role in reversing that trend by providing resources, training, and mental health support services to our hospital Associates – as much as they need.
Through our employee assistance programs, wellness programs, and supplementary mental health benefits, BluePearl is working relentlessly to combat and eliminate veterinary burnout in our profession.