Forums » Veterinary Social Work Corner

A Referral Goes a Long Way

    • 2 posts
    July 12, 2020 6:31 PM EDT

    Veterinary professionals are in a unique position of serving two parties: their animal patient and the client. Successful relationships with each requires a different set of skills, knowledge, and understanding. While team members receive a wealth of training on how to best help patients, the supports required to foster the veterinary-client relationship are still lagging. Much pressure is placed on veterinary teams to be ‘everything to everyone’ and this can take a toll on morale and wellness.

    When it comes to a pet’s end of life, unique challenges emerge in which clients may require additional support that are not within the scope of veterinary practice. While some hospitals are beginning to integrate multi-disciplinary teams with Veterinary Social Workers or Grief Counsellors, this is not the norm for many practices. 

    The good news is that resources like VetVine’s Virtual Pet Loss Support Service exist to ease the load off of veterinary teams. Online groups are led by trained facilitators who ensure that a safe and non-judgemental space is available for people to share their experiences and discuss coping strategies.

    Why Refer Clients to VetVine’s Virtual Pet Loss Support Service?

    In a recent research study conducted by Seneca College and VCA Canada [1], it was found that 16.3% of survey participants were not informed of pet loss support groups or counselling, yet nearly half of respondents stated it would have been helpful to have received such referrals particularly from their veterinary providers.  

    Although the veterinary-patient relationship ends when a pet passes, this finding clearly illustrates that the veterinary-client relationship must continue to be fostered. In fact, by nurturing this relationship, not only can it help positively impact a client’s grieving process, it’s good for business. Research shows that teams who find ways to support clients with their grieving process (within their scope of practice), are more likely to see clients return with new pets in the future.[2]

    In the current climate of COVID-19, clients are having to say goodbye to their pets in ways never imagined. Many of the processes meant to help with the grieving process have been taken away (e.g. being with their pet in the final moments, memorializing options). This can complicate peoples' mourning. In addition, people may not be able to turn to others for support in the same way due to distancing requirements. This means that peoples' grief may be more complicated and they may be left feeling more isolated.

    By referring client’s to VetVine’s Virtual Pet Loss Support Groups, you are helping to ensure that clients:

    • Know they are cared for by your practice 
    • Have support in a time of high social isolation
    • Are surrounded by others who understand their pain and can support them through it

    This also helps alleviate stress on your teams. Staff will feel more empowered knowing that they have been able to provide care in a time of pain. It minimizes some of the pressure on staff who may feel they need to provide emotional support to clients because of a belief that no other support service exists.

    Let’s work together to make sure that those grieving the loss of their pets are provided the care and support they deserve, while also helping to ease the load and relieve your team of that pressure. 

    [1] Seneca College & VCA Canada. (2020). Final report: Pet loss best practice guidelines for veterinary teams

    [2] Grossman, S. & Freedman, E. (2016). PetLoss Partners End of Life Care/Pet Loss