Veterinary Social Workers Benefit More Than Your Clients
Amanda Carrozza is a freelance writer and editor in New Jersey.
In addition to providing client support, veterinary social workers are trained to enhance the emotional well-being of veterinary staff.
Including a social worker on staff is a growing trend to address the human needs that arise in veterinary hospitals. In addition to providing helping clients in their time of need, having a social worker on staff — either part-time or full-time — has been shown to benefit the entire veterinary team.
“Veterinary social work is a solution to many of the issues that may be leading to somebody feeling isolated or alone in the stressful environment that they’re working in,” said Sandra Brackenridge, LCSW, a veterinary social worker and consultant. “It’s a way of decompressing from many of the stressful situations that really stick with people and contribute to them beating themselves up. I don’t think veterinarians or team members should have to be their own therapist or be their own social worker. I think social workers can help, direct, give resources, offer guidance and streamline the process to better health for all veterinary professionals.”
Alleviating Staff Interactions With Clients
A staff veterinary social worker can work directly with clients to relieve staff of the time-consuming communication and emotional burden involved with choosing a proper treatment plan, managing a poor prognosis, and coping with loss.
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Having a social worker involved provides the staff with relief from moral distress. “When social workers help clients, they are helping staff enormously,” she said.
In addition to the discussions had during training or group sessions, a veterinary social worker remains observant of the interactions of staff members on a regular basis. Because they’re more astute to the signs of compassion fatigue or distress, social workers are able to spot a team member in need more easily than other coworkers can.
Veterinary social workers are also able to report their observations to the practice owner or manager, and suggest training sessions or overall workplace modifications that could be made to increase well-being.
Veterinary social workers are uniquely trained to act as mediators for problems that arise between team members. They can quickly defuse the situation and work with all parties to find a resolution.
Although social workers do not provide extended therapy, they are able to offer short-term counseling. And, if additional support is needed, a veterinary social worker can help the staff member find a counselor or therapist that best meets his or her needs.
Debriefing is a technique shown to lessen the effects of compassion fatigue and burnout. Provided one-on-one or in a group setting, debriefing sessions address the after-effects of a particularly stressful situation and its emotional repercussions.
A postvention is an intervention conducted following a suicide. They’re typically conducted in the form of an educational support group for staff after a coworker or local peer has died by suicide.
“Talking about suicide and your feelings of suicide will not increase the risk of suicide,” Brackenridge said. “It actually decreases the risk.”