Pet Loss and Bereavement

"I thought I would write a blog about Pet Loss and Bereavement in practice during COVID19 to help guide and give tips to those in the veterinary industry. Saying ‘Goodbye’ to a beloved pet is very upsetting and due to the pandemic, makes it even more tough.

I completed Carrie Ball’s Pet Loss and Bereavement Support Advisor CPD a few weeks ago and it really opened my eyes to the ways in which we can show clients that we are there for them, although we are not physically there if you know what I mean.

Euthanasia in general is so upsetting as it is, but with the addition of the pandemic on our hands, it makes it much more emotional – in my practice at Mile End, we are asking clients to hand their pet over to us at the door. When it was my first time witnessing this, I couldn't help feeling somewhat guilty. However, since completing the CPD, I have learnt other ways to support clients which has been beneficial indeed.

I will note these as bullet points but if anyone wants to ask any further questions please get in contact - I am more than happy to help in whatever way I can because ultimately, we are all in this together :

·         Call clients a few days after euthanasia to see how they are coping. Recently, we put to sleep a dog who was owned by an elderly lady who lives on her own. She has been asked to shield due to the pandemic and has limited access, if any access, to outside. Since Poppy was euthanised, I have called her owner a few times to let her know that she is not on her own and if there is anything we can do to let us know. She did mention that when the pandemic is over, she wishes to visit our practice to thank us for everything - this truly meant so much to me (especially after a busy day!). Just being a listening ear to a client after their pet is euthanised really does mean a lot to them. I would recommend calling clients at a quieter time of the day so you can focus all your attention on the client and not make them feel rushed. Just a conversation for five minutes will let them know you as a practice are thinking of them.

·         I understand that there is only so much we can do for our clients, especially if they seem to be struggling. Please refer any of these clients to Blue Cross Pet Bereavement services.

·         In practice, we write out sympathy cards for clients, put forget me nots in the card and also have now started making vaccine vial tributes (a few nurses told me about the vial tributes so a big thank you to those who recommended this). We place a few locks of hair in the vaccine vials - I made my first ones last week and they look amazing!

·         Quality of life scales were mentioned in the CPD which can help clients assess their pet's condition at home and help them make a more informed decision. It may also help them after the euthanasia to understand it was the best thing they could do for their pet.

Ultimately, showing care, compassion, empathy and understanding are vital.

As Carrie Ball mentioned in her CPD, “We are there to be the strength the client needs to get through this devastating time”.

On the other hand, colleagues can suffer from compassion fatigue during these upsetting times - Please look after each other. Given the current climate, just asking a client or colleague how they are bearing up means so much and to those that are struggling, it is okay to speak up. We need to learn to be kind to ourselves. Our job is very demanding and can be stressful – we need to practice self-care. On your days off, do activities that you love, have a well-deserved rest. To student nurses like myself – give yourself realistic boundaries. We need to revise and complete assignments/CSL but ensure you give yourself regular breaks. It is difficult for us due to exams being postponed which can make you feel deflated and ultimately, even more stressed. This strange time will eventually pass and once all the exams are finished, we will have a massive celebration!

Finally, I want to draw your attention to those that are furloughed. They will feel away ‘from the action’ and may feel guilty that colleagues are at work. They will also have worries about family, friends, and their own health just like the rest of us. Check in on them and show that you are thinking of them.

I could write so much more information in this post, but it would take me all day! If you have any questions, please write in and I will try to help in whatever way I can. Stay safe and stay well."

April Louise Murphy SVN

April is a final year Student Veterinary Nurse at the Goddard Veterinary Nursing College. She works full time at a Goddard's branch in East London. She is passionate about exotic nursing and hopes to gain further knowledge and experience in this sector once qualifying. She is the ISFM Cat Advocate in her branch where she ensures cat friendly practices are carried out.

April will be taking on the role as peer reviewer for the student section of the VNJ which she is delighted about. She hopes to encourage SVNs to have a voice and write in their experiences so others can learn from them, and is looking forward to reading your amazing stories, hints and tips!

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