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.

1 comment:

  1. Having compassion in that kind of job is very important because it will surely test your patience every once in a while. As a doctor, and a veterinarian nonetheless, it just really hurts to see very sick patients, only to turn them away with nothing but your best “at home care”. As much as it hurts, some things just always end up being ruthless calculus. The animals are lucky to have you guys!

    Alana Gorecki