“At PetIQ, the best part of your day happens every day,” said Dr. Bowman.
PetIQ’s Dr. Amy Bowman explains why veterinarian burnout is so prevalent in the industry, and how PetIQ can help those dealing with it.
When did you join the PetIQ team and why?
I joined PetIQ this year in 2021. I’ve spent the bulk of my career in leadership roles, and I spent a lot of that time talking to general practice veterinarians who were struggling with work/life balance. They were struggling with compassion fatigue and burnout.
I believe that the field of veterinary medicine is going to have to go through a real paradigm shift. The scope creep has become so large, and I wanted to shift to practices that were trying to break the mold. I found PetIQ and liked what they were doing. They’re really becoming disruptive to the veterinary practice model.
Well, there’s no surgery to start. There’s no euthanasia. PetIQ doesn’t do any major internal medicine. We are truly there for the pet parents to maintain their pets’ health. I think we’re meeting pet parents where they are. We’re meeting them at retail centers. We’re in Walmart and Meijer. PetIQ is really committed to providing access to care and offering it at the most affordable price.
Why do you think this focus on pet wellness is disruptive?
It used to be that when you got out of veterinary school you only had a couple of options as far as a career path went. You could be an associate at a practice, or you could open your own practice. Then there started to be the corporate practices, which opened up avenues for leadership positions.
However, what PetIQ is doing is offering yet another option. Many veterinarians may decide two or three years into their careers that they don’t want to do surgery or euthanasia. If PetIQ didn’t exist, those veterinarians wouldn’t have a lot of options. We really provide a home for those veterinarians who just enjoy being the general physician for their pet parents and pets and being that conduit of information.
Not to generalize, but like a general practitioner in human medicine?
Exactly. You go to your general physician, and your general physician can give you your vaccines and your annual exam. However, when things get beyond that, what do they do? They refer you to the hospital for x-rays, or they refer you to the orthopedist or the cardiologist.
PetIQ fills that same niche for pet parents and the veterinarians that want to practice that way. We build relationships with our pet parents so we can help them navigate the quagmire of specialists and procedures when something major does arise.
We also offer flexible work schedules for veterinarians. You can work full-time, part-time or come on as a contractor. There’s a lot of opportunity for all veterinarians at various levels of their career.
Why is burnout so common in veterinarians?
First off, it’s a very unique profession. Many of us decide this is what we want to do when we’re less than double digits in age. You’ll talk to a lot of veterinarians and ask them, “When did you decide to be a vet?” “Oh, when I was 8. When I was 9. When I was 7.”
Veterinarians work very, very hard academically so they can get into college. Then, they work very, very hard so they can get into veterinary school. It’s a group of people who are very high achievers. However, for a lot of them, the top of that mountain is becoming a veterinarian, earning that degree. For many of them, they haven’t thought much beyond getting that degree.
Then, they get into the real world, and the expectations can be grueling. They’re expected to constantly switch gears, and they’re expected to do it quickly and at a high level. These are people who don’t have any experience failing. A lot of burnout can be attributed to the expectations put on them by society and themselves to achieve at a high level.
That seems pretty impossible.
It is. No one can be the best surgeon, the best cardiologist, the best endocrine specialist all at the same time. And, as technology has become more available and made treatments more affordable, practices are asking their veterinarians to do more and more and more, and it’s becoming an impossible ask.
And PetIQ offers a different way forward?
When you’re in general practice, and you see a routine wellness case on your schedule, you breathe a sigh of relief. I like to say that PetIQ is trying to make the best part of your day your everyday. Because those are the kinds of cases we see. That’s what we do, and it’s what we do well. We take care of our veterinarians so they can be at their best to take care of pets.