For Veterinary Professionals

What is Compassion Fatigue and How it Impacts the Veterinary Industry

We all understand the word compassion - to recognize and sympathize with the pain of others. Compassion, empathy and kindness embodies a tangible expression of love towards those who are suffering. We’ve all expressed compassion towards others as well as felt if from someone else. Individuals can even feel these strong emotions for those they don’t know. So, how does this relate to veterinary professionals?

Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to protect them. They are most known for diagnosing, treating and understanding medical conditions and diseases of pets. But something that rarely is discussed, but equally as important, is the aspect of compassion and service. As unfortunate as it is, no matter the efforts made and the care given, a beloved pet has to be euthanized... And who is there to comfort these pet parents from their loss? The veterinarian staff. These difficult encounters take a toll. Whether it’s a pet you’ve worked with since birth, a heartbreaking accident story, or just simply seeing the hurt of their owner, veterinarians and vet techs feel this pain deeply. 

Compassion fatigue is a growing phenomenon amongst the veterinarian industry. While you may not be familiar with the term, you most likely recognize the idea of it. It’s the feeling that you have no more empathy left to give. This idea is similar to burnout, but compassion fatigue stems from helping others. It’s the feeling of wanting to do more but you’re overwhelmed from being exposed to the secondary traumatic stress of others. This fatigue doesn’t appear overnight - it takes time to develop and builds overtime, to a point where you forget to care about yourself or others in your life. You end up overusing your compassion skills and reserves - so you no longer have much to provide. 

The Signs

The sooner you identify the symptoms of compassion fatigue, the quicker you can get back to caring for yourself and replenish your feelings for empathy. Be on the lookout for these signs from Canadian Medical Association:

  • Sense of helplessness and feeling powerlessness 
  • Physical, psychological and emotional exhaustion
  • Feeling detached 
  • Being irritable, angry, sad or numb
  • Blaming yourself and feeling you haven’t done enough
  • Becoming absorbed by those suffering 
  • Decreased sense of personal and professional accomplishment

How Dr. Vales Handles Compassion Fatigue

Recognizing the signs is the first step to combating compassion fatigue. The next step is finding ways to be able to manage these overwhelming feelings. We spoke to one of our DVMs Dr. Vales to see how she handles compassion fatigue. See what she does to manage these feelings and get inspired.

  1. Practice Meditation – Dr. Vales uses the Calm app to help her meditate when she’s feeling overwhelmed.
  2. Exercise – Getting the body moving helps her recharge.
  3. Self-Care – Taking “me time” and going to the beauty salon or spa is another way Dr. Vales likes to reset.
  4. Family Time – Dr. Vales enjoys spending time with her family, especially going to the movies to get her mind off things.

The Evette Solution

As long as there are empathetic people in the world, compassion fatigue will always exist. Understanding when you are going down that path is key and finding personal solutions to treat these feelings. However, there are a few things in your lifestyle that can accelerate these feelings. One of the biggest adjustments you can make is your work-life balance. Making sure to take time from work to decompress, rejuvenate and center your thoughts can help put feelings of fatigue at bay. Through emphasizing the ‘life’ in work-life balance, take time to create better self-care routines that enhance your wellbeing. 

Some of our veterinarians have used relief work to get over feelings of compassion fatigue and burnout. Through relief work, DVMs and vet techs are able to create a schedule that better reflects their wants and needs. By going from clinic to clinic, it can also help to set aside these feelings due to less time for forming deeper attachments. On the flip side, clinics can help their permanent staff avoid this fatigue by allowing for better schedules through utilizing Evette relief coverage. 

Helping others without replenishing yourself can be overwhelming and can lead to compassion fatigue. As soon as you recognize some of the warning signs, take steps to care for yourself and stay a step ahead of compassion fatigue.

Partnering with Evette opens up a world of possibilities. With an unwavering commitment to service, we make it possible for you to make the lifestyle change you want while providing peace of mind. Evette is here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our team is happy to answer any questions you have and help you achieve a better work-life balance. 

Get started by contacting us today.