Reducing occupational distress in veterinary medicine personnel with acceptance and commitment training: a pilot study

N Z Vet J. 2022 Nov;70(6):319-325. doi: 10.1080/00480169.2021.1938270. Epub 2021 Jun 30.


Aims: To determine whether an educational programme targeting the reaction of veterinary personnel to difficult client interactions reduced burden transfer, stress and burnout in veterinary staff.

Methods: Employees of three small-animal veterinary hospitals in the south-western United States of America were recruited and randomised to intervention (educational programme; n = 16) or control (no intervention; n = 18) groups. Participants of this randomised, parallel arms trial completed pre-programme assessment including the Burden Transfer Inventory (BTI), Perceived Stress Scale, and Copenhagen Burnout Inventory. Assessment was followed by two, group-format educational sessions, based on acceptance and commitment training, tailored to reducing reactivity to difficult veterinary client interactions (intervention group only). After training was completed, both groups were assessed using the same measures and the intervention participants provided use and acceptability ratings.

Results: Intervention participants rated the programme as useful and appropriate, and reported that programme techniques were used a median of 43 (min 9, max 68) times during the 2 weeks prior to retesting. Relative to pre-programme scores, median post-programme scores for reaction (subscore of BTI) to difficult client interactions decreased in the intervention group (33 vs. 54; p = 0.047), but not in the control group (51 vs. 59; p = 0.210). Changes in median scores for stress and burnout from pre- to post-programme were non-significant for both groups.

Conclusions: This pilot and feasibility trial showed high rates of acceptability and use by participants, as well as promising reductions in burden transfer. A larger scale clinical trial with follow-up at extended time points is needed to more fully examine the efficacy of this novel programme.

Clinical relevance: Preliminary findings suggest this programme may be a useful approach to reducing occupational distress for individuals working in veterinary practice.

Keywords: Acceptance and commitment training; burden transfer; occupational distress; veterinarian burnout; veterinarian stress; veterinarian wellbeing.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Pilot Projects
  • Veterinarians* / psychology