Sunday, October 28, 2012

Compassion Fatigue

Sorry if this post is a little down from what I usually write, but it comes with the job.  Some days are great, some, not so much.

Most all know that a part of a veterinarian and their staff's job is to assist clients in making the decision to put their animals to sleep.  I'll admit, I've become callous towards some of these visits from clients. It's only normal after doing it hundreds of times, or if you didn't really have a relationship with the client of patient.  However, there are so many times when it rains, it pours. We'll have one euthanasia that opens the door up to 5 more in a day.  It gets depressing. Its hard on the doctors, its hard on us.  What people don't understand is that we are a walk-in clinic, so we will have a new puppy in one room, an allergy dog in the next, and a client of 30+ years saying goodbye yet again to a special member of their family.  Its very emotionally taxing to deal with these goodbyes alongside taking good care of our other clients, and I'm just the tech, not the vet.  I don't say this to belittle my job, people do that to my profession every single day, but I say this because I am so thankful for my role as technician during these moments. These reasons are why I didn't continue on to vet school.

This past week was a perfect example of something very serious we learn about in tech school: compassion fatigue.  Most vet techs are compassionate people to the very core, sometimes even more than the veterinarians.  We connect with animals on a whole new level, some animals touch us more deeply than others.  Its heartbreaking when you see people come in with a little pit bull puppy that has never had shots, and gives us a positive parvovirus test, and then they don't have any money, so they take the puppy home with our best "at home care" instructions and we know very well that that puppy won't even make it through the night. How do you think that makes me feel? This isn't like human medicine where there is medicaid.  We have to make money too. Lord knows our vets make their fair share of "pity cost cuts" during the year.  How can you not? It's usually not for the client's sake. Ignorant, negligent clients frankly piss us off. Its the animals that break our hearts. Turning away the sick patient is what sends me to food room to cry for 2 minutes and get myself together.  It sucks.

This week for some reason was one of those weeks where everybody coming in was sick, and not just sick, but poor prognosis sick.  One dog got into antifreeze. Another hit by car. The list goes on.  The other day the sweetest old guy came in with his pet rabbit.  He takes amazing care of this rabbit and its his baby. He doesn't have a lot of money, but he always pays his bills, even if it takes a few payments.  His rabbit was very sick, we were going to have to do a very expensive surgery and even that was probably not going to save him.  Watching this man break down in the room in tears because he didn't have the money to pay for his rabbit was so hard to see. Normally, I would just accept this and move on.  However, he tugged at my heart strings more than others have.  I told him I'd help him with the payments.  So we went ahead with surgery, opened the rabbit up and found tumors all over.  We ended up euthanizing him and closing him up.  I'm not a big rabbit lover, but this guy just broke my heart. He'd just lost his best little buddy who he was willing to give his whole life savings to.

Things like this make me so glad I work in the animal world. I couldn't bear to work in a children's hospital and watch parents go through the same thing. However, I don't want to sound like I am belittling the importance of animals' in human's lives.  They can be the light of someone's life and I've never known a person who hasn't benefited from their relationship with their pet.

Sorry this post is a little sad, but its just been on my mind and just needed to put it out there.  I love my job, and in some ways, I love being able to help people say goodbye to their animals. I just hate the feeling of knowing that there are so many other animals that need help, care, and love.  This isn't me pulling a "Sarah Maclaughlin" and making everyone feel super guilty that they haven't run to their local Humane Society to adopt a pet.  I just often have people question why I only have one dog, and its because I can't financially afford more, nor do I want another dog.  Remember that you have a responsibility to your pet, and that having one is a privilege, not a right.

Crazy Clients

Sometimes, I think that I should get a raise for every weird client I see and manage to assist without losing my professional composure.

There's a certain favorite client of mine who likes to bring her beloved Basset "Rosie" into the animal hospital for toe nail trims.  The first time I helped Rosie and her owner, I noticed that the entire office immediately emptied and that I was left alone with her file in my hand. I just figured everyone was having stomach cramps at the same time from eating McDonalds everyday for breakfast, so I went on my way.  Soon, I learned why everyone scattered. 
We put Rosie on the table and she immediately went into a fit of distress. She howled and cried and loud as possible while her mom told her, "You're a good mamma baby Rosie! You're a good mamma baby!" What's a "mamma baby?" I know what a "baby mamma" is, but "mamma baby?"  I began the toe nail trim and immediately Roise yowled an octave higher.  That's when I started to hear singing. Yes, singing.
Apparently when Rosie is upset, her mom sings to her to calm her down. This song goes to the tune of Frank Sinatra's "Pretty Baby", also sung as the "Party Pooper" song sung by our generation.

"Everybody loves a Rosie, that's why I'm in love with you,
Pretty Rosie, pretty baby.
I'd like to be your sister, brother, dad and mother too,
Pretty Rosie, pretty baby (Mamma?)."

As she is once through the song and about to start again, I need help. Mainly because Rosie is squirming and yowling and I only have 3 nails cut, but also because I am about to combust.  I make one of the girls, Staci, from the front desk come and hold Rosie for me, and Rosie's mom commences singing again.  The entire time I just keep thinking, "Don't look at Staci, don't look at Staci!" Then I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was Staci. Her head was tucked and very red, and her shoulders were shaking so bad I thought she was having a seizure. She stole a glance at me and I lost it. Before I busted I quickly excused myself to go into the hallway and laugh.  Rosie's mom wasn't phased one bit by our rude behavior, she was still just singing away to good ol' Rosie!

Another funny client story happened earlier over the summer.  One of the receptionist came back to let us know that some people were bringing their dog to us, but they were going to bring her in the carrier.  She kinda giggled when she said this and said "it's a little dog in a big carrier". We didn't really think all that much of this so I went out to the lobby to call them in.  I call the name and instantly realize I am going to have a very hard time maintaining professional composure. This very sweet couple has this small 30 lb beagle in a HUGE cage. Not only is this cage huge (at least 4 feet tall and deep) but its so big they have it on wheels. I do pretty well as they roll it down the hallway, but when they try to come through the door and it doesn't fit, I about lose it.  I thought maybe the reason they had this huge cage was because the dog was aggressive, but no, she's as sweet as can be but seems to be a bit shy.  So, I of course have to get down on all fours and climb up and back into her RV of a cage to get her out.  The best part was one of our doctors following them with his camera phone to get a picture to show his wife.

Who else out there has some good crazy client stories?!