3 tips to avoid burnout from DVM, Dr. Brooke Schampers (Part 1 of 3 blog series)
VetTalk had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Brooke Schampers, who is an emergency and critical care veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Service in Brisbane, Australia. After speaking with Dr. Schampers, it’s clear that she is passionate about her work as an emergency critical care vet and that she has overcome similar struggles to most other veterinarians and staff in the industry. Dr. Schampers shares with us three ways to avoid burnout and how she has personally dealt with burnout in the past.
Throughout the interview, we cover several topics ranging from the best ways to cope with burnout to the new delivery of care in a Post COVID world. This interview will be a multi-part blog series and include other posts that talk about how to manage imposter syndrome and how Dr. Schampers deals with client callbacks in her clinic!
Part 1 of 3 Blog Interview Series
Q: What surgeries and types of animals are you typically providing care for?
A: Mainly I work in emergency and urgent care of all animals, predominantly dogs and cats, but will occasionally treat exotic animals like lizards, snakes, rats, mice, and guinea pigs. On the surgery side, I am seeing cases like toxicities, trauma, seizures, gastroenteritis and some urgent care cases that the owners feel thier pets are needed to be seen quickly.
Q: What is the typical length of shifts in the Emergency Room?
A: We typically try to stay between 10–12 hour shifts. Legally, the company that I work for won’t let us work more than 14 hours a day. We are trying to continue to focus on our work life balance. We have a large staff of vets and it’s nice to be able to hand over your patients to a strong group of other DVM’s. This makes me feel good about leaving my patients to the next care team.
Q: Have you dealt with any burnout and how do you deal with this in your day-to-day life?
A: I had a period of burnout when I first started practicing. This was due to a combination of imposter syndrome and long hours due to saying yes to every shift that needed to be filled because I loved my job so much. As a first-year graduate, it was hard for me to understand why I wasn’t as good as the other doctors. I felt emotional burnout due to the constant demands and long hours. At the end of the day, the only difference between myself and some of the other vets was experience.
Q: What would you say is the biggest change in the industry pre and post COVID?
A: The biggest change so far is the number of cases and clients has absolutely increased. There really is not a slow night in our hospital and it starts the minute you walk through the doors. We are starting to be forced to practice a different kind of medicine. One example of this is lame dog gets pain relief and goes home versus, maybe in the past we would have been able to take x-rays of each dog that came in the clinic. We are forced to prioritize the most critical patients because we can only treat so many patients in a night. The other thing is that owners are preselecting how they want to treat their pets. With the amount of inflation, owners have less money to spend on their pets. Interest rates and inflation have gone up significantly in Australia, maybe not as much as the states, but there is a certain socioeconomic population choosing certain treatment options because they don’t have the discretionary income they had in the past.
There were 3 different strategies that helped me to cope with burnout as an ER vet.
- Taking Holiday and Break – I focused on taking a holiday every three months or so for about a week, which really helped me to regroup after experiencing long working hours.
- Picking the right amount of shifts and prioritizing sleep – It’s important to have a good rest and make sure that you are picking shifts that you can handle, especially when you are working long hours with a large caseload.
- Take Different Shifts within the ER – By taking different shifts within the hospital, like doing more work in the ICU, it helped me to take a step back and be less client facing for a moment. This allowed me to be more focused on the patients in the ICU, which was a big change from being in front of pet owners each day.
We really enjoyed this interview with Dr. Schampers and it’s clear that there are similarities to how care has changed and how important it is to deal with burnout and take care of yourself when you are working long hours! Further, we were able to learn a great deal of how vets are dealing with patients post COVID and some of the positives and negatives that came out of the pandemic.
Please subscribe if you are interested in reading parts 2 and 3 of this blog series!
For more information about Dr. Brooke Schampers please check out her Instagram page and website below: