March 27th, 2019

Do you suffer from Compassion Fatigue and or Burnout??

Compassion fatigue and burnout is a topic widely discussed in Veterinary Medicine.  Whether you are a kennel worker, caretaker, assistant, receptionist, veterinary technician, practice manager or a veterinarian; all of these positions will have felt this overbearing emotion at one point in our careers. This isn’t just limited to veterinary practices; it also carries over into the research veterinary field.

Burnout is the result from the stresses that arise from the personal interaction within the work environment.

Compassion fatigue specifically is caused from the relationship between the research personnel and the research animals.

Research within itself can be consuming from bottom to top.  Not communicating with care staff about the procedures animals go through, the specific care the animals need and the medical plausibility of the research, can leave them confused, angry and often times may bring up unethical retaliation towards the profession.  This goes for all the parts of the research team!  Communication should be an everyday occurrence to make sure the entire team is on the same page.  Researchers, veterinarians and other parts of the research group can provide a platform for many institutions to implement that provide informative meetings for staff to attend.  This is a good opportunity for questions, fears, ideas and general information sharing for everyone.

Do you have anything like this happening in your facility?

Unlike veterinary practices where you have a variety of patients and clients everyday, in research the same people spend time with the same animals day in and day out.  Regardless of the species one may work with, the attachments can happen where compassion and empathy have become an inportant part of the profession.  Long work hours, low pay, heavy work load, emotionally conflicting studies and the outside community constantly invoking their distaste to research in general can definitely take a toll on a research team member.

We already know of the devastating outcomes such as people leaving the profession, beginning to care less about the team, the animals and oneself.  Suicide rates increasing along with the rise in anxiety and depression is a real threat to our profession today.  So how do we as a research team deal with this problem?

There are several publications out there that I have researched and it really comes down to three major things we as a profession must do.

  • Realize that it is an organizational responsibility to care for staff by providing an outlet or outlets made available for them to go to for help.
  • Colleagues need to support their peers and make themselves approachable to talk about what is happening and listening to their peers providing good suggestions.
  • Your personal responsibility is to realize and admit that you are suffering from this and to take care of yourself.

Start a conversation and think abut these topics.  If it is helpful, draft a sheet of these questions and hand them out to your staff.

  • How do you go about recognizing your own compassion fatigue?
  • How do you recognize burnout amongst your coworkers?
  • If there were one thing you could do to combat this problem, what would it be?
  • How do you tell a colleague that they maybe suffering from compassion fatigue?
  • What is the first step to the research team can do to help solve this problem?
  • What happens to your professional standing if you do not get treatment for compassion fatigue?

We as a profession are constantly worrying about the animals, the equipment, the protocols, the IACUC, animal rights, personel, grants, funding, publishing and the outcome of years of hard work.  Spending long hours at the facilities and spending personal time worrying about our outcomes should push us into taking the time to step back, take a deep breath and analyze where we are mentally, physically and personally.

We all are the caretakers of these research animals in one fashion or another.  Healthy animals and good research require all of us to pay attention to the smallest detail.  You do not have to do it alone, involve the entire team from the bottom to the top.

Now that you have read this…start a conversation, implement a program and take care of yourself, because these animals need us at our best!!

To your health!

Vicki Elam, CVT VTS LAM

President Elect – ALAVTN


December 31st, 2018

Welcome to the first entry on the last day of 2018.  This is the Academy’s second full year where we added another member who successfully passed the exam this year.  Congratulations BETH SKILES BS, RVT, RLATG, VTS-LAM, welcome to the group!

 

Beth was formally an honorary member of ALAVTN and decided to take the exam to become a full member.  She graduated first with a BS in biology and went back to school to get her AS in Veterinary Technology, both from Purdue University.  Beth is currently employed with Indiana University School of Medicine as an Animal Health Technician working with mice and rats, is a member of the ALAVTN Finance/Treasury committee and is now a mentor for the Academy. Beth will be contributing her expertise when the Academy updates the exam pool of questions.

 

2018 celebrates the first time the academy was recognized at AALAS with our first solo panel discussion featuring topics such as;  reducing stress with alternatives to masking/boxing down patients, updated information for rebreathing hoses that are currently used in the industry, recognizing our participation in non-invasive techniques such as imaging and also opportunities for Technicians in the compliance, managerial role.

We are looking forward to a very productive year in 2019 and will be sharing informative information throughout the year!!

Happy New Year!!

Academy of Laboratory Animal Veterinary Technicians and Nurses