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The benefits of entering the veterinary profession are very well documented and understood – after all, animal lovers the world over will appreciate the pride and joy that come with healing a wounded or sick animal through to full recovery.
In addition, the veterinary world offers continual options to delve into the growing number of specialisations that are evolving.
It is no wonder the lure of this caring profession sees nearly 20,000 registered veterinary surgeons and approximately 12,000 veterinary nurses in practice in the UK alone.
No profession is without its drawbacks though, and being a vet or VN really is no exception.
The darker side
Witnessing the signs of neglect or abuse to a creature is particularly difficult for someone who entered the profession due to their love of animals, as is having to put a family pet to sleep – although this can be a welcome relief if an animal is really suffering.
Sometimes more difficult are the occasions when, for reasons of funding or client attitude, the right treatment cannot be delivered or maintained, and this can be very frustrating.
Exposure to aggressive animals and illness is another challenge for anyone in practice. No matter how much a vet cares for an animal, bites and scratches from sick animals are a common and real danger.
Self-care for vets: avoiding burnout
The stress of dealing with these issues can lead to distress on a mental and emotional level if not managed well. To alleviate symptoms, some practitioners exercise, meditate, listen to music or talk to their team.
Whichever method works for you, it's important for vets to be mindful of the potential issues and reflect on their work and practice self-compassion. Delegation and proactively seeking work-life balance are ways to address the practical side of compassion fatigue.
Thankfully this can be as simple as taking a holiday or a long weekend and remembering to have fun.
Awareness and discipline mean the reasons vets and veterinary nurses first decided to make the move into practice will return and last the course of a wonderful and rewarding career.
- If you find yourself struggling and want to talk to someone, both Vetlife (0303 040 2551) and Samaritans (08457 90 90 90) offer confidential and non-judgemental support.