Most of us think of veterinarians as people with a fantastic vocation, even a dream job. After all, how many of us wanted to be a veterinarian when we were young? Veterinarians help to save the lives and improve the health of our favorite furry friends and family members.
Unfortunately, for many veterinarians, the reality is a bit more serious. While these individuals do, indeed, focus their time and attention working to improve the lives of sick and injured pets, this often comes at a price. Many veterinarians frequently undergo some form of trauma, whether it is an inability to get a pet patient through a crisis, the stress of uncertainty with a diagnosis or treatment, or the verbal attacks and bullying of unsatisfied clients.
In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the issues that can lead to a veterinarian experiencing trauma.
Where Veterinarians Experience Trauma
Leading experts have explained in some detail how veterinarians may experience difficulty in the trauma field.
The trauma that these veterinarians may experience can come from a number of different sources.
Trauma from Euthanasia
Unfortunately, euthanasia is a common occurrence in the world of most veterinarians. For some patients who are severely ill or profoundly injured, and the medical options are limited or poor, humane euthanasia may be considered a blessing for the pet.
However, in a world where finances are often limited, these limitations frequently prevent pet owners from moving forward with available treatment options and have a pet euthanized.
This is can be profoundly traumatic to the veterinarian, who entered this field because of a deep desire to care for and help animals. When a veterinarian has to euthanize an animal that could otherwise have survived and gone on to lead a healthy life except for the cost of treatment, it can be extremely traumatic for them.
The Concept of Bullying Against Veterinarians
Veterinarians are often subjected to bullying – an aspect of the job of which most people in the general public are unaware.
Sadly, many pet owners are unaware of the substantial costs that are often associated with providing effective veterinary medical care. They are startled, even shocked, by the costs when presented to them, and it is fairly common for them to express upset, disdain, or anger about the associated costs. This anger and frustration for a client’s inability to pay is often forcibly broadcast as verbal abuse at the veterinarian or veterinary staff member providing the information.
This is difficult and potentially traumatic for everyone involved.
This has led to the advent of cyberbullying against veterinarians. It’s not uncommon to see reviews, ratings, and posts from clients of veterinarians reporting that the prices are extortionate, unfair, or exuberant, or that if the veterinarian had any compassion, their prices would be lower. Or, when someone cannot afford a necessary procedure for their pet, hearing you’re heartless, I can’t believe you’d rather put my dog to sleep than help him…
On the veterinarian’s side, this frequently can lead to emotional trauma: hurt, sadness, disappointment, and anger.
Most families do not have pet insurance for their dogs or cats. As such, the costs are out-of-pocket, and generally payment is due at the time services are rendered – a requirement, by the way, of MOST businesses. Yet many people find veterinary pricing unreasonable because they compare it to their own medical care which seems to cost very little when they go to their doctor or to the ER. What they fail to acknowledge is that those monies are being exchanged, it’s just from their insurance companies.
What goes unacknowledged is the attention, efforts, and energy that a veterinarian invests toward delivering medical care for their animal. Instead, they simply see the price as too high.
One reality behind this is that clients are often not taking responsibility for their own financial situation. That’s not to say that the prices charged by veterinarians are cheap. In many cases, these are unexpected and barely affordable expenses for families. However, this is rarely the fault of the veterinarian – it is simply an unfortunate combination of living wages, financial responsibility, and expenses.
The bottom line, however, is that veterinarians do not need the added stress of having clients discredit, insult, or attack them because they consider their prices to be unreasonable.
Trauma in Emergency Medicine
Veterinarians, whether general practitioners, emergency clinicians, or board-certified specialists, often have experiences that can be categorized as traumatic. Additionally, other health care providers, including emergency room doctors, nurses, and mental health workers, experience a number of issues that can lead to trauma.
- Compassion fatigue: a condition that occurs when an individual is constantly providing a high level of compassion for other living beings
- Burnout: a common issue among doctors, nurses, and veterinarians who must constantly provide an intense amount of focus and dedication, and are often delivering challenging news to patients’ loved ones
- Depression: can occur from spending so much time around hurt and injured individuals
The brain has a way of holding onto pain long after the painful experience has occurred. This is one aspect of trauma.
Unfortunately for emergency medicine practitioners, it’s not just a person’s own pain that can cause this phenomenon. A person can also hold onto the pain of another living being: a pet or a person, for example. Over time, this pain can build up and lead to significant trauma.
Professional Veterinarian Hilal Dogan faced a similar experience. Dogan was unsure why she came home from work so often feeling drained, irritable, and uncomfortable. It wasn’t until she stumbled across a book by Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk known as The Body Keeps the Score that she started to understand.
Van der Kolk’s book explains how trauma is stored in the body, and also provides some interesting alternatives about how this trauma can be released.
Trauma, Pain, the Body, and Holistic Treatment
Van der Kolk, a medical doctor, has begun to recognize, along with some leading psychologists, that trauma is not purely a mental phenomenon. In fact, a great deal of trauma is stored in the body. Unfortunately, very few people are aware of this, and as such we lack the knowledge of how to remove this physical trauma.
Dr. Dogan eventually suffered a tumor and had numerous health problems which she believed that she developed as a result of her trauma. It wasn’t until after she began researching trauma and various treatment methods that her health began to improve.
There are a number of different holistic treatments that can be useful for helping veterinarians and other health professionals overcome trauma and stored pain.
Somato-emotional repatterning is one such treatment. Somato-emotional repatterning is a treatment that has been designed to help unlock the traumas that are held in the mind and the body. By integrating the treatment of both the mind (psychologically) and the body (physically), somato-emotional repatterning can help free a veterinarian completely from their trauma.
For veterinarians and other healthcare professionals, somato-emotional repatterning can be a great help.
Many veterinarians and other emergency workers carry a great deal of stress, pain, and discomfort with them due to the nature of their work. Regularly working with sick and injured animals, helping them through surgical procedures, and sometimes having to end their life, can leave a mark on a veterinarian.
These psychological injuries can lead to physical after-effects, as well as blockages in the body’s energy meridian system.
The energy meridians, which were first identified thousands of years ago by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, are functional channels which carry energy throughout the human body. Much like the body’s circulatory system can become blocked or clogged, so too can the body’s energy meridian system.
Trauma and psychological pain can lead to blockages in the energy meridian system, and treatments like somato-emotional repatterning can be useful for helping to free up these blockages. If these blockages are left untreated, they can lead to further psychological pain or physical symptoms such as muscle tension, illness, and premature aging.
Veterinarians may carry a great deal of emotional stress and trauma due to the nature of their work. If this trauma remains unaddressed, it can lead to both physical and psychological health problems.
If you think that you are struggling with some form of trauma, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a coach who can help you work through these issues.