By Meg Richards RVN
It’s the worst part of the job right? But they don’t really tell you that when you sign up. They don’t tell you you’ll drive home crying over that patient you lost, or over that family who gave you a big hug and a thank you for taking care of their pet in those last moments. We know it comes with the job, but we don’t know what to expect. I think it’s something that isn’t really covered enough in the Veterinary Nurse course syllabus. Surely we should be taught extensively how to look after our clients, pets, ourselves and each other during some of the most emotional scenarios that our career presents?
As Veterinary Nurses, we may jump from a second vaccination for a gorgeous new puppy, to monitoring an anaesthetic for a cat spay, to restraining a patient for a blood sample, to taking a phone call from an aggressive client, to performing CPR on a crashing patient that you’ve come to adore - all in the space of one working day. It is an incredibly fast-paced, ever-changing, physically and emotionally demanding job. Perhaps in the chaos of a working day, we don’t stop and feel the pain of losing a patient that we fought so hard to save, or the emotion of supporting a devastated client as they say goodbye to their much loved best friend.
Recognising in myself that I was suppressing my emotions because I had to move on to the next patient, or the feeling that I wasn’t doing enough for grieving clients, made me realise that many other Nurses probably do feel this too. Creating this webinar was so important to me. I wanted to share what grief looks like, how it might manifest itself and how best to support our clients before, during and after their pet’s passing. For me, giving the client as much information about the process and being with them every step of the way, is a way for me to feel that I am preparing them in the best way possible for what is an extremely difficult time. More than this, I wanted to normalise compassion fatigue and share how important it is to take a breath between cases and patients and allow yourself to feel – because we’re only human, because we care and because our love for our patients is why we’re in the job.
Why is pet loss support so important to me?
Last year, I lost my 11-year-old Springer Spaniel, Millie, very unexpectedly. I’m one of those high maintenance owners – I guess it comes part and parcel of being a Nurse and knowing more about what could go wrong. I was so on top of Millie’s health and the slightest change in her health and I was whipping her into the car and up to work. But this time, I didn’t see anything untoward. I just woke up one morning, like any other, and she had slipped away in her sleep. I won’t lie, assisting with euthanasia’s for the pets of others or losing your patients in emergency scenarios doesn’t prepare you for the loss of your own. Millie was my best friend, my absolute soul mate and my confidant since I was a very troubled teenager into my adulthood. She saved my life and she inspired me to become a Vet Nurse. She really was my everything and more. In losing her, I felt like I lost a huge part of myself. I totally broke and one year later I am still picking up the pieces.
When she passed, I felt so alone, despite being surrounded by friends and colleagues who understood what I was going through. I didn’t feel like I wanted to talk to anyone but I knew I needed support, I just didn’t know where to go. Research taught me that there are so many amazing resources, support services and places to go for help and I want to make these accessible for all Vet Nurses and our clients.
Millie’s passing has left me without so much, but it has left me with a drive and passion to promote talking about our emotions, validating the hard experiences we have as Nurses and sharing our knowledge and support services with our clients. In this way, I hope we can create the most compassionate and supportive pet loss and bereavement service that we possibly can.
In the webinar, we cover:
- The pet loss process
- The Animal/Human bond
- What is grief?
- How can we support clients prior to euthanasia?
- The euthanasia process
- Home visit euthanasia
- Shock and emergency patient deaths
- Bereavement support after euthanasia
- Practice protocols – how to be prepared for every euthanasia
- Compassion fatigue
I really hope it inspires you to make small changes to your protocols, implement new support strategies and take care of your own mental health.
Watch Pet Loss and Bereavement Support by Meg Richards RVN here: https://www.veterinarywebinurse.com/videos/pet-loss-and-bereavement-support/79
Find Meg's own blog "Spaniel Adventures" here: https://cornishspanieladventures.wordpress.com/
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