A passion for compassion

dvm360dvm360 March 2024
Volume 55
Issue 3
Pages: 14

Dan Bieck, DVM, shares how he is working to improve euthanasia appointments for the patient, client, and veterinary team

Dan Bieck, DVM, works with a bongo.

Dan Bieck, DVM, works with a bongo.

Every client will remember 2 appointments: their first visit with their puppy or kitten and their pet’s euthanasia. But Dan Bieck, DVM, an assistant professor at Lincoln Memorial University’s Richard A. Gillespie College of Veterinary Medicine in Harrogate, Tennessee, adds that regardless of how long it has been or what has transpired since, they will always recall how they were treated at these appointments.

Bieck is trying to help by speaking at conferences to help veterinary professionals not only provide much-needed support and compassion for these patients but for themselves as well. From personal experience, he explained that these appointments can cause burnout for veterinary professionals because they have to go from a euthanasia appointment to a new puppy or kitten visit or a wellness check, giving them almost no time to process in the moment the sadness of what just happened.

“I think a lot of it comes down to [the fact that] medical professionals just don’t take care of [themselves]. That’s where I would love to be able to…help veterinarians and many others…and give a sounding board of what we can do to prevent and manage [burnout],” Bieck said. “Now, have I done research? No, but I’ve read a bazillion different articles to just try to help my own self…but also a lot of it I just tried to put into practical advice. I think all that ties into the euthanasia, especially for us.

“It’s really hard to stay compassionate when you have that day and you just euthanized 6 pets and then you jump into a puppy exam,” he continued. “You have to turn it off and put on the happy vet face, but the back of your mind is like, ‘Oh my God, the client, I can still hear the client wailing in the other room. I’m supposed to be upbeat and happy with this brand-new puppy.’ It’s a roller-coaster ride.”

Dr Bieck has traveled the world, aiming to build compassion for veterinary professionals and their clients.

Dr Bieck has traveled the world, aiming to build compassion for veterinary professionals and their clients.

Bieck is also pushing for a change in how some, though not all, veterinary professionals act with these clients. Bieck has noticed that pet parents sometimes do not feel like they can speak during the final moments of the euthanasia appointment. It is important to let them know it is OK to speak to their pet and get the closure that patient and client need. The key is to make a very upsetting situation as comforting and positive as possible.

Bieck encourages teams to train their client-service representatives (CSRs) to handle these calls. He explained that because this may be a CSR’s first time in a clinic, they may not know how to handle these calls; scheduling the euthanasia appointment is the first step in an already difficult process. Bieck encourages teams to collaborate on a script and be able to provide patients with the next steps for their appointment, because they may not be sure of what to do next. Bieck believes giving teams the chance to work together on these protocols will help staff leaders emerge.

“You guys develop a script…. You put the receptionist [who] has been there the shortest period and you task her to be the leader of that group.… You encourage each individual person to be a leader at different times. We are all leaders [and] there’s a difference between a leader and a boss,” Bieck explained.

“Some of the best leaders I’ve seen are receptionists…they just are fantastic work people. They [have] great people skills. They know how to de-escalate situations; they know how to get along with everyone. Because they are like, ‘OK, guys, you know we’ve got to get this going and step up.’ They don’t identify themselves as leaders and sometimes the best leader is the person who doesn’t view themselves as a leader. They don’t have the ego,” he concluded.

Bieck is working with veterinary students to help prepare them for when they enter the clinic and are faced with a euthanasia appointment. He is speaking at conferences across the country to help improve the well-being of veterinary professionals so that they can meet the needs of patients and clients during a very difficult time.

Related Videos
Senior Bernese Mountain dog
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.