Previously known as “Compassion Fatigue & Conflict Management”, we have renamed this portion of the Veterinary Social Work practice “Intentional Well-being.” While compassion fatigue and conflict management are still very relevant topics in this sphere, the title was not broad enough to encompass all of the things that impact the wellness of those in animal related professions, including trauma, burnout, communication, organizational climate and culture, policy, and many more. Additionally, we wanted to highlight that there is purposeful action in building healthy individuals and systems, hence “Intentional Well-being.”
Animal related professionals experience a great deal of grief, stress, and trauma in their work. Veterinarians are said to experience death at a higher rate than human doctors do simply because the life span of animals is generally shorter. In some animal shelters hundreds of animals are often euthanized each day due to over population. Animal control workers and humane officers, like adult and child protective service workers, must witness neglected and abused animals on a daily basis. All of this can create high levels of compassion fatigue among animal related professionals.
Veterinary social workers offer help with the precursors and after effects of compassion fatigue.
Teaching skills in grief accommodation and providing supportive group or individual consultation is important for animal-related workers. Many veterinarians, for instance, feel guilty or at fault when they lose patients. Animal shelter euthanasia technicians also struggle with feelings of guilt and grief because of the responsibilities of their jobs.
Stressful and traumatic experiences are high in veterinary medical and animal shelter environments. Moreover, the over population of endless unwanted animals becomes very stressful for animal shelter and rescue group workers. Therefore teaching stress management skills is extremely important for veterinary social workers to offer in caring for people who care for animals.
People who love and want to work with animals as their professional role often feel more affinity to animals than they do to people. This, in addition to chronic compassion fatigue, can contribute to high conflict and low conflict management skills in these settings. Therefore, the role of the veterinary social worker as mediator is extremely important in caring for people who care for animals. Discussions regarding the proper care of animals can quickly become contentious as people begin to judge others in not knowing the right way to treat animals.
Since social work is a HUMAN profession, veterinary social workers must put aside their own opinions about the proper use of animals, and instead be a neutral non-anxious presence, helping arguing parties come to consensus for common ground and work. This is probably one of the most important and society changing roles of veterinary social work.
If you are an animal related professional experiencing compassion fatigue, stress, grief, trauma, and or conflict, please feel free to call the Veterinary Social Work Helpline at 865-755-8839 for a consultation. You may also find the resources below helpful.
This is a wonderful website with many helpful resources for managing compassion fatigue.
This website addresses the skills needed to develop compassion for oneself. This capacity is something that people in animal related professions often find challenging.
- Compassion Fatigue in the Animal Related Community. (2006) Charles Figley and Robert Roop
- Full Catastrophe Living; Coping with stress, pain and illness, using mindfulness meditation. Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Wherever You Go There You Are. Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Conflict Management. Daniel Dana
- Non-Violent Communication. Marshall Rosenberg
- Getting to Yes Without Giving In. Fisher, Ury, and Patton