Helping Veterinary Clinic Staff Cope With Animal-Related Grief And Loss
Introduction to Compassion Fatigue
The relationship with the pets, along with the role of animal companions in modern society has shown a marked change in recent years. For example, today the animal pet acts as a fully accepted family member or a social partner and has an essential influence on the life of the owner. A personal string of sentiments is attached between the owner and the pet.
We are aware of the sentiments attached between a pet and its owner but do we know the extent of fatigue experienced by the veterinarians, animal techs, and humane society workers?
The dreaded burnout, academically known as “compassion fatigue” is a condition that gradually reduces the compassion of the caregiver and creates secondary distress and state of suffering while continually helping people or animals.
Studies confirm that caregivers or pet loss support consultants play host to a high level of compassion fatigue, in part due to an environment that constantly present heart wrenching and emotional challenges to them. Hence, it is inevitable to avoid compassion fatigue touching the lives of the caregivers.
The veterinary community has a responsibility to enhance the human-animal bond through science and medicine and by emotionally supporting pet owners. Therefore, one of the most challenging moments for veterinarians is the time when a pet’s health and life can no longer be sustained. This establishes a dual traumatic condition for the veterinary staff where at one end is the dying pet and at the other end is the pet owner suffering from immense grief and sorrow.
Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue
However, veterinarians are robust and are trained to carry out their job and the associated duties with complete professionalism. Only seeing a traumatic situation cannot distort their compassion. Hence, it can then be quoted that there are combined factors that lead to compassion fatigue which can take a physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional toll on people who experience it.
Common symptoms of compassion fatigue include:
- Chronic physical and emotional exhaustion (pains/ sadness)
- Isolation or Depersonalization
- Feelings of inequity toward the therapeutic or caregiver relationship
- Feelings of self-contempt
- Difficulty sleeping
- Weight loss
- Poor job satisfaction and difficulty concentrating.
Preventing or Treating Compassion Fatigue
Self-evaluation to recognize changes in behavior, work, and life outside of work is the first step to avoid compassion fatigue. However, instead of entering into a phase of self-doubt, it is better to take prevention steps and seek professional assistance to eliminate compassion fatigue from work and life both.
Following practices can help prevent compassion fatigue:
- Reduce stressful workloads
- Take adequate rest and sleep
- Take regular vacations
- Mediate or exercise
- Engage in interesting hobbies.
We have also gathered pro tips that can be useful in treating compassion fatigue to a more significant extent:
- Talking about your feelings with a trusted person and a mental health professional
- Make yourself aware of the effects of compassion fatigue
- Developing a healthy diet
- Give time to yourself and revive fitness goals
- Reach out to support groups
- Visit friends and involve in playful activities.
However, compassion fatigue is real and a dangerous condition.
Therefore, people experiencing compassion fatigue should seek the support of a professional mental health doctor to help them overcome difficult thoughts and emotions. This support will allow them to focus on healthy coping mechanisms and cope up with compassion fatigue later in future.
I am a certified and experienced veterinary professional in UK, accredited from The British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA). I work as a full-time veterinarian staff and also dedicate myself to raise awareness for animals and their caregivers, pet owners and veterinary consultants both.