Euthanasia Appointments are Common During the Holidays; Share the work and find time for peace

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Do you feel there is an increase in pet euthanasia services over the holidays?  If you do, you are not alone.

I asked this question of Erin Bedell, one of Lap of Loves’ Operations Directors, and her query was quite interesting. She discovered the trend for veterinarians performing in-home euthanasias over the past three years increased by 12.5% during the last quarter of the year (the holidays, especially here in the US). Most veterinary professionals will tell you there is an increase in euthanasias. What does your data show you?

The Holidays are stressful enough for veterinary professionals and the increase in euthanasia services can compound the sense of stress, regardless of the reason.

In Today’s Veterinary Practice article, The Winter Holiday Season and Euthanasia Rates; The Unexpected Correlation, Dr. Dani McVety explains there are several anecdotal reasons for the increase. They include, but are not limited to:

·       Increased urgency around the Holidays

·       Waiting for the family members to arrive home for everyone to be together for the service

·       Family members stating, “Oh my, Frankie is still alive?” possibly indicating a deterioration in the quality of life

·       Colder weather

·       Finances may be tighter during the Holidays leading families to make the difficult choice to euthanize rather than treat serious illness.

Dr. McVety stated, “Compassion fatigue can increase during the holiday season for a number of reasons, but for veterinary professionals, the increased rate of euthanasia, clients’ outpourings of grief, and the resulting guilt can have a rough impact on what is supposed to be a joyous season. Being aware of these negative feelings is important, but also recognizing the overall good you’ve done can help you through it. Find comfort in your co-workers and family, make sure you’re taking time for your mental and physical health, and remember why you do what you do — to provide exemplary services to pets and owners.”

Holiday Relief

Veterinary professionals may find relief while supporting each other through the holidays. In addition to increased euthanasias (either real or perceived), the team is also dealing with more social events, purchasing gifts, family gatherings, and the expectations for the “Perfect Holiday.” Keep in mind, veterinary clients are experiencing heightened stress and expectations too!

Because of this, it is important to define ways to combat the added stress and pressures. Considerable relief may be found in:

·       Expressing gratitude, grateful for the little things and telling friends, colleagues, and family members they matter and are appreciated.

·       Peace and quiet, enjoy a cup of cocoa with whipped topping and sprinkles on the couch in complete silence, carving out time to relax.

·       Keeping it simple, lowering expectations in gift giving and receiving, food preparation, and family gatherings.

·       Sharing the volume of euthanasia services amongst team members that find end-of-life care rewarding and refer services to in-home euthanasia professionals when appropriate.

·       Elevating best practices in euthanasia, supporting your team and clients in a peaceful euthanasia experience.

In your community, build rapport and relationships with in-home euthanasia service providers and mobile veterinarians. Your clients will appreciate the recommendation and veterinary teams will be relieved of some of those duties during their day. You may find the Veterinary Angel directory useful in the upcoming months and into the New Year.

Through it all, being present to each other and clients, full of grace and understanding, may be the best relief. Sharing the work with veterinary professionals embracing end-of-life may prove beneficial in designing a more joyous holiday for the veterinary team and clients. Evaluating and elevating best practices in the delivery of pet euthanasia may be a comfort to veterinary teams performing the beautiful service.

All of us at CAETA wish you a peaceful holiday season.

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Rebecca Rose, RVT

Rebecca Rose, RVT, is a credentialed leader in the veterinary community with experience managing clinics, collaborating with industry partners, authoring articles and books, and facilitating engaging team workshops. The former NAVTA president's enthusiasm for professional development in veterinary medicine is contagious. She encourages and supports veterinary teams in reaching their highest potential to maintain a healthy, sustainable life and career.

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