Team is the Secret Ingredient in Euthanasia Work

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By Rebecca Rose, RVT

As we kick off Veterinary Technician Appreciation Week today, we want to reflect on the ways that technicians and everyone on the team can support euthanasia appointments. Getting it right the first and only time is important. Your veterinary team consists of formally trained individuals (veterinarian, credentialed veterinary technician, assistant, social worker or practice manager), but are you truly leveraging them to their highest potential? It’s wonderful when we have varying backgrounds and skill sets within the veterinary hospital. It takes a variety of people to make the team function. Each professional member fulfills a specific need, impacting quality of care, gaining career satisfaction, promoting patient care and client service.

What Does it Mean to “Leverage” a Team During Euthanasia?

To fully leverage your team, they must feel supported so that ALL of their skills are being utilized. When was the last time you simply asked a team member, “Are we fully leveraging you to your maximum potential?” You may be surprised by the answer. Per the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), as stated in their Policy on Veterinary Technology preamble, “The veterinary profession is enhanced through efficient utilization of each member of the veterinary health care team by appropriate delegation of tasks and responsibilities to support staff.” And while euthanasia may seem like the type of appointment to limit team interaction (exposing too many people to sadness and loss), it turns out it’s just as important as other appointment types.

Writing out pet euthanasia job duties is a good place to start. Defining the duties for each specific role will increase the likelihood that each team member is fully utilized. The idea is always to work smarter, not harder.
1. Veterinarians – determine if euthanasia is warranted, determine drug protocols, perform the procedure.
2. Veterinary technicians – prepare supplies, ready the patient, perform the procedure (dependent on the state), make memorial keepsakes, prepare the deceased pet’s body for aftercare, prepare and send sympathy cards.
3. Veterinary assistants – greet the client/patient and help them settle into the room, review euthanasia paperwork including aftercare needs, collect payment (best done ahead of time).
4. Veterinary social workers/grief counselors – sit with the client, follow up afterwards offering time to talk, support the veterinary team before, during, and after.
5. Management – ensure all supplies and drugs are available and properly tracked, monitor staff for compassion fatigue/satisfaction, allow time for Euthanasia Rounds with the staff.

Everyone on the team is responsible for providing love and empathy to clients during the euthanasia of their pet. Like CAETA includes in their 14 Essential Components of Companion Animal Euthanasia, clients need helpful and compassionate personnel; they need time to establish rapport and safe space to gather. The team maintains smooth communication and protocols during each and every pet euthanasia.  Managers, technicians, and veterinarians are also asked to be vigilant in knowing the laws governing veterinary medicine and scope of practice. 

And let’s keep in mind that while aftercare company personnel might not be employees of the veterinary hospital, their work is very important to smooth euthanasias. It is good to keep them closely looped in to what’s going on and when deceased pets are ready for the next phase of the journey.

Bringing it All Together

Through respect and understanding of all the team members’ education and skill sets, teams will be successful in providing the best end-of-life service, patient care, client service, and team satisfaction. There is value in empowering everyone on the interdisciplinary veterinary team to reach their highest potential. By empowering the entire veterinary team to take an active role in completing tasks within their scope of practice, their effectiveness improves and pet euthanasia is elevated. Clients and patients that are tended to by a team focused on the common goal of “best possible care” will receive compassionate, consistent, and tender service. Your team is encouraged to review and take CAETA’s 10-hour Euthanasia Master Program, elevating all team members’ understanding and delivery of euthanasia. 

Resources

IAAHPC Animal Hospice Guidelines, 2013, https://www.iaahpc.org/images/IAAHPCAnimalHospiceGuidelines2013.pdf

AAHA/IAAHPC End-of-Life Care Guidelines, https://www.aaha.org/graphics/original/professional/resources/guidelines/2016_aaha_iaahpc_eolc_guidelines.pdf 

AVMA, Policy on Veterinary Technology Preamble, https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/AVMA-Policy-on-Veterinary-Technology.aspx 

AAVSB Scope of Practice for Veterinary Technicians PDF, https://www.aavsb.org/Download?url=s/zyc1jepvv1n97ou/AAVSB%20Model%20Regulations%20Scope%20of%20Practice%20for%20Veterinary%20Technicians%20and%20Veterinary%20Technologists%20Approved%2012.16.2020.pdf 

NAVTA Veterinary Assistant Skills List, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Skh5avQkg1V7Kix3JrA6GjslndlPRBbZ/view 

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Rebecca Rose, RVT