Burnout, compassion fatigue and moral distress in veterinary professionals

Amber Foote
Thursday, March 2, 2023

Veterinary professionals are becoming increasingly exposed to, and concerned about, burnout, compassion fatigue and moral distress. Work-related stress can have a significant impact on quality of life and contribute to poor mental health. Several studies have shown that emotional exhaustion and mental health illnesses are significantly higher among veterinary surgeons, with the rate of suicide in the veterinary profession four times the rate in the general public. There is an abundance of evidence in the human healthcare field regarding burnout, compassion fatigue and moral distress, but there is very little research in the veterinary field. This study aimed to investigate whether veterinary professionals in the UK are experiencing burnout, compassion fatigue and moral distress, identify possible contributing factors, and ascertain whether veterinary professionals are able to recognise these conditions and have the tools to deal with them. The study found that veterinary professionals showed moderate levels of burnout and compassion fatigue, despite moderate levels of compassion satisfaction. Veterinary surgeons, patient care assistants and veterinary receptionists experienced low levels of moral distress, but registered veterinary nurses experienced moderate levels of moral distress.

Table 1. Demographic data
Table 1. Demographic data

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