Words by:
Andrew Heller, DVM — IndeVets co-founder and IndeVet #1

2020 sucked. Here’s why, and what we’re doing about it.

In a previous post, I lamented the increased risk of burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic. I discussed why changes occurring in response to the pandemic are leading to faster rates of compassion fatigue and decision fatigue, the underlying causes of burnout.

Overall, 2020 has been a rough year for veterinarians, and our chief medical officer, Dr. Marisa Brunetti, set out to survey our team of Associate IndeVets and find out just how big of a toll it was taking on doctors’ mental health.

Over 40 IndeVets responded to our survey, and it was clear from the results that being a veterinarian in normal times is a stressful job — full stop. Couple that with the stresses of 2020, and things get even more dicey.

At IndeVets, we’re proud to offer our doctors total schedule control and the freedom to choose their workplaces. Yet we still found that while 76% of IndeVets reported good work-life balance, stress levels were quite high. In fact, 76% of our doctors reported feeling more stressed this year than last year. 2020 had less of an effect on the other 25% (who reported the same stress levels) — and no one we surveyed felt less stressed.  

Some more key takeaways from our survey: 

  •  97% of doctors say that COVID related matters were a direct cause of their increased stress.  
  • 80% are either more “burnt out,” experiencing compassion fatigueor both, versus the previous year.  

Our doctors say that increased patient loads, squeezing in last minute exams, and hospitals not doing enough for COVID safety have increased their stress levels. Additionally, some noted political turmoil and changes to their home dynamic (due to COVID) as factors 

What we’re doing about it 

All of this makes sense to us veterinarians in the trenches. Solving these issues is what is most important to us as a company.

Luckily, this week the COVID vaccine is being rolled out to essential workers, which we can all hope is the beginning of the end to this rough year and devastating pandemic. We are listening to our team and responding to the 97% of them who have asked for better mental health resources to help with growing stress and burnout.  

We have added an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as an immediate first step. The goal is to provide employees with the tools and resources that they need to improve their mental health and help balance their work/life. 

Still in the works (and just the beginning), we are looking to bring on a life coach to hold mindfulness and stress management seminars to help us navigate the challenges in our careers. We plan to hold monthly “commiseration” groups where we can vent about the difficult aspects of our jobs. And most importantly, we will continue to keep the lines of communication open between our doctors, management, and the practices we are partnered with to improve our work experiences moving forward.  

 We want to wish you all happy holidays! Happy new year!  

And welcome 2021! 

Dr. Heller is Chief Growth Officer of IndeVets.

More from IndeVets:

Good death: Reflections on grief, loss and euthanasia in 2020

How Covid amplifies burnout in vets, plus 4 tips for maintaining well-being (from a veterinary life coach!)

How to make the change from Associate to Relief vet (without giving up what you love about your job)

Becoming an IndeVet