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I’ve now started sharing content on Patreon. Check it out here:
Attention Wildlife Rehabilitators.
I’m collecting info on compassion fatigue as it relates to rehabbers. If you don’t mind, please take a brief survey consisting of a few questions and the ProQOL measure! I’d also like to state that your answers are confidential, but that I will be using the data gained from this in future articles/presentations. The survey takes about 8-10 minutes to complete.
In June Dr. Roark launched the 4 eyes save lives initiative. The goal is to reduce accessibility to lethal drugs in veterinary medicine. The article on this life-saving initiative can be read here.
The idea behind this initiative is to ensure that nobody in a veterinary clinic can access the means to die by suicide on their own. If someone else is present, the chances of someone taking their own life is greatly reduced. Setting these systems in place is not only life-saving, but it is also a relatively easy change for many clinics. It’s an actionable goal if people in the veterinary profession are really serious about reducing the risk of suicide in the profession.
I believe this should be standard practice within the veterinary community, but also in the wildlife rehabilitation community. Does anyone else have these steps in place outside of human medicine? It’s been almost a month since the launch of the #4EyesSaveLives initiative was launched. Has your clinic implemented these strategies? For those in other animal care areas, how do you limit access to lethal means for people in your facility?
As always, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org !
Canada Suicide Prevention Service
In French: Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
Kids Help Phone:
Text: TALK to 686868 (English) or TEXTO to 686868 (French)
Live Chat counselling at www.kidshelpphone.ca
Post-Secondary Student Helpline:
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre
If you’re worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them, says the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. Here are some warning signs:
“If you REALLY cared about animals, you would help me”
“Profit shouldn’t come before lives”
“All you care about is money”
If you work with animals, and especially in the veterinary field, you have heard this many times. Sometimes many times per shift. Not only is responding to these statements exhausting, but it’s infuriating. If you cared about money you would have chosen another profession. Caring for animals is not a lucrative career, despite what people think based on their veterinary bills. The average person has no idea what amount of money and time goes into the background of running an animal care facility or clinic. It’s not their job to know, all they know is that they can’t afford fluffy’s treatment and that brings up a lot of negative emotions for them. They’re unsure of how to deal with it all, so they project it onto the person in front of them or even on the clinic as a whole. This post is not about explaining this, however if you’re interested in reading a great piece about it Sarah Boston wrote an article describing this occurrence and you can read it here.
This is about what happens AFTER the emotional blackmail, online bashing, and guilt/anger/pain that comes along with each and every one of these scenarios. This is about how to care for yourself when you’re going through the aftermath of the client freakout. Here are some steps that can help.
I want to hear everyone’s thoughts. How do you deal with the emotional blackmail and moral injury that comes along with your job? What tips do you think I should add? Email me at: email@example.com to let me know!
It’s one of our most basic and fundamental emotions. It triggers the release of stress hormones which is a part of the fight, flight, or freeze stress response people have evolved to use for self-preservation. However, prolonged release of these stress hormones is harmful to our own health. ‘Stuffing’ anger is a very unhealthy way to cope – but unleashing it in the moment can also be very harmful.
Maybe it’s the client in the veterinary clinic accusing us of ‘only caring about money’ while refusing to bring in the sick cat who hasn’t eaten in a week. Maybe it’s the member of the public who feels they can doctor Google how to raise the baby squirrels they found and refuse to bring it in to your wildlife rehabilitation centre (even though you know they’ll drop it off at the door when the poor babies are deathly ill and it’s too late for you to save them). Whatever it is, the feeling of anger can quickly arise.
In the animal care world, often our anger is related to the fact that sometimes animal suffering is out of our control. It’s difficult knowing you have the ability to help, but for one reason or another, your hands are tied. So what are we to do when there is nowhere to put our feelings? When our options are unleashing it on the client or member of the public (definitely not recommended and may even cost you your job) or ‘stuffing it’. We generally choose the latter. This unleashes stress hormones in our body which are there as long as we hold our anger. We need to let it go by finding healthy ways to express our anger. ‘Being angry doesn’t give you permission to be cruel’ whether this is towards other people in our lives or ourselves. We need to stop stuffing the feelings that come with the work that we do.
It’s also important to keep in mind that anger is very good at masking other feelings. Feelings of hurt, sadness, anxiety, stress, etc. often show up as irritability or anger. So working on anger also tends to unleash some of the emotions that it’s masking. Expressing anger in healthy ways allows us to explore the feelings that are hidden underneath the anger and can be a positive and constructive practice. Here are some ideas of how to express anger in healthy ways when you’re faced with a difficult situation:
Things that can be done immediately:
Things that can be done when you have more time:
The work you do is difficult. You need to take care of your mind, body, and soul ❤︎.
“Self care feels like guilt. Do it anyway”.
This is what the sign on the door to my first baby and me yoga class said. It was easy for me to ignore the sign in the moment (after all, it’s easy to not feel ‘mom guilt’ when you’re doing something for yourself and your baby). However, since class this morning I’ve reflected on how often this has been true for myself and for people in the caring professions
As caregivers, we are taught that sometimes caring for others means putting their needs above our own. This often isn’t a conscious choice to completely neglect ourselves so much as a plan to delay what we need until later.
Maybe it sounds like:
“I’ll have lunch after I get Fluffy hospitalized and settled in.”
Only to close Fluffy’s kennel door as the receptionist tells you there’s a walk in emergency in exam room 3 and you know you’ll be needed almost right away.
Telling yourself that you’re going to take that “self-care” bath with a glass of wine that you’ve planned and have been looking forward to for the last week when you get home. Then, as soon as you walk through the door, chaos ensues.
Almost always without fail, we push these things for ourselves off. We have intentions of doing things for ourselves but the reality is that something else more urgent comes up or we commit to something someone asks us to do instead of saying no because we’re worried they’ll get upset. It’s not always as trivial as skipping lunch or a bath. But it’s almost always the result of an inability (often a very real inability) to say no.
Saying no is hard. Self-care is really about setting boundaries and saying no. I challenge you to find places in your life where you can say no to something or someone in order to say yes to something for yourself.
It will feel like guilt.
Do it anyway.