For most of us, it’s easy to understand why our veterinarians and technicians are susceptible to compassion fatigue, being on the front lines of major medical traumas and drama on a daily basis. It’s easy to assume that the manager or boss in the office is protected from compassion fatigue by their big desk, but that is so NOT true!
Managers and leaders in practice deal with their own brand of compassion fatigue, and it’s a doozy. The compassion fatigue survey reported in Compassion Fatigue in the Animal-Care Community (Figley & Roop, United States Humane Society) concluded that one of the top satisfiers for all positions in practice is contact with animals, and one of the top stressors for all positions is dealing with difficult clients.
Well, if you take a manager (particularly one that has “grown up” in veterinary medicine) and put them behind the desk with little or no contact with pets, and then ask them to handle all the really difficult client complaints, you have to be prepared for them to develop compassion fatigue. Once compassion fatigue affects a majority of the team, or any of the key leaders in the practice, then the entire practice becomes susceptible to Organizational Compassion Fatigue…a scary place to be!
There is hope, however, and ways we can prevent and minimize compassion fatigue for our team, our leaders, and our practice as a whole. The most important first step is awareness…Let the Cat Out of the Bag, and TALK about compassion fatigue with your team! Let them talk about difficult cases and medical disasters when nothing they could do would help bring that pet back…let them find out how the others on the team feel when faced with emergencies walking through the door…talk about how compassion fatigue affects EVERYONE on the team, from the kennel assistant to the front office team member, and everyone in between. Awareness is key!