Feeling Fried

August 2022 |

Banish burnout and increase engagement in your hospital.

A common myth about workplace burnout is that it’s the problem of the person experiencing it. “But burnout at its core is a work-related problem, created by the workplace,” says veterinary business consultant Wendy Hauser, DVM.

The antidote, she says, is engagement. “When employees are engaged, they find meaning and purpose in their work, and are enthusiastic, energized and deeply committed to their workplace and team members,” she says.

Providing Relief

So how do you drive that sense of engagement among your team? The first crucial step, says Hauser, is to provide relief from excessive workload.

Create efficiencies. Have doctors use a voice-to-text app to lessen their time spent completing medical records, or borrow a page from human medicine with dedicated exam-room scribes. And use electronic medical records with templates standardized across all doctors. “This simplifies entry and creates efficiencies for all team members when you need to find information,” says Hauser.

Hire a cleaning crew. This will benefit your hospital in two ways, says Hauser: “First, you’ll have reduced overtime pay because your team members won’t have to stay after hours to clean. And second, you’ll be treating your technicians and assistants as valuable team members, which helps them to develop their professional identity and boosts their engagement and motivation.”

Control your appointments. One tried-and-true method is to block off appointments for animals that need care in the same day, says Hauser. “Make sure you increase the number of those appointments to reflect increased demand in your hospital,” she adds. Another option, she says, is to increase capacity by hiring a relief or part-time veterinarian whose sole role is to see urgent care appointments made that day.

Create cut-off times. Create clear and concise understandings of how you’ll handle clients who call at the end of the day for an appointment. “Realistically, after working a long hard day, is it fair to your team to ask them to stay late to see emergencies?” Hauser asks.

Rethink Production-Based Pay

The second key way to increase engagement, Hauser suggests, is to discontinue the practice of production-based pay for associate veterinarians, which she says can create a toxic culture, a lack of teamwork, and a transactional relationship within the workplace.

Instead, she advocates a system of salary plus bonuses, where the hospital pays a sustainable living salary and offers merit-based bonuses that can be earned. “This increases competencies for your veterinarians and creates new passions,” says Hauser. “The outcome is a veterinarian who is more engaged in your workplace and in the success of your practice.”

Protect Your People

By taking steps to reduce burnout among your team, you’ll be protecting your most valuable resource—your people. “The bottom line is that unless we begin to manage burnout in our hospitals,” says Hauser, “our problems will not be resolved.”