For many owners, the experience of losing a pet is heart-breaking and, for some, overwhelming. However, the loss can be made easier by having a channel of support that provides clear and reliable information about a pet’s end of life and helps owners with the decision-making process, as well as in coping afterwards.
Compassion Understood is a resource to help both veterinary staff and pet owners make the euthanasia or end of life of a pet as smooth and stress-free as possible for all concerned. Research conducted among hundreds of veterinary professionals and pet owners1 has shown a disconnect between what veterinary professionals think clients need in relation to euthanasia and what they actually want.
This research showed that 60% of owners felt their vet handled the euthanasia of their pet very well, leaving 40% who had a clear desire for veterinary staff to understand more, to help prepare them better for their loss, and to signpost where they can access more support if required.
Verbatim comments from pet owners included:
“I was given information but I really would have liked more, maybe a referral to someone to talk to for grief.”
“I wish so much they had given me websites and phone numbers to resources to help me with my grief. I still struggle with it. I found some good links online to blog posts before and after but it would have been nice to feel more heavily supported by the vets.”
“Be genuine. If you can’t, don’t fake it, but please exercise some kind of compassion. I know vets have to do this a lot and get desensitised, but pet owners typically don’t go through it regularly. Bedside manners are pretty key. If you can’t give compassion, hire some good nurses or technicians.”
This feedback led to Compassion Understood Managing Director Douglas Muir taking up the challenge of developing a training programme for veterinary practices along with a website resource for pet owners that contains information and practical advice on all aspects of pet loss.
Douglas said, “Our research showed that 70% of veterinary professionals felt that further training in supporting clients through pet loss would be beneficial, and only 35% of vets felt well-equipped to answer questions from pet owners about the right time to say goodbye. This, coupled with a very clear need for more support expressed by the owners in our surveys, led me to see that there was a double need: more training was needed in end-of-life for the practice team, on communication as well as clinical aspects of end-of-life; also some kind of resource was needed for pet owners, so they could access clear and helpful information. There are some very good support sites out there, but the information is quite fragmented and not easy to find. We wanted to pull everything together in one place and from there we could signpost them to where to get further help if needed. And so Compassion Understood was born, to help veterinary practices, and pet owners.”
The website, http://www.compassionunderstood.com, has a strong pet owner emphasis, and veterinary practices are encouraged to direct their pet owners there for reliable, clear end-of-life information, written by veterinary professionals.
The site also contains a veterinary portal where practice team members can access online training in end-of-life, as well as topical blogs and other information. The Compassion Understood Pet Loss Support Training programme is to be launched at the upcoming BSAVA Congress 2016 in Birmingham, where the company has a stand (901).
The training programme has been put together with the help of end-of-life and hospice vet Dr Susan Gregersen*. Susan explained why she felt veterinary colleagues could benefit from a pet loss support programme:
“Speaking to colleagues in the many practices we collaborate with, I’ve learned just how many feel inadequately prepared. They’re unhappy that they’re short of time – and sometimes skills – to do a good job when an often-distraught client needs them most. But if a client is left with bad memories at the end of life, they may not return to the same practice with another pet; as we know, about 1 in 5 do not¹.”
The Compassion Understood Pet Loss Surveys carried out in 2015 highlighted a need in veterinary practices for staff training in all areas of euthanasia and pet loss, which will be addressed by the training programme. It consists of a comprehensive series of training modules designed to appeal to all practice staff.
Modules include clinical aspects of assessing quality of life, decision-making around end-of-life, pre-euthanasia preparation, and palliative and animal hospice care. Other aspects covered are the emotional and psychological aspects of losing a pet, as well as how to protect the practice team from compassion fatigue or emotional depletion.
The training programme is fully online, and can be completed at the learner’s own pace. The learning approaches and delivery have been overseen by educational expert, Dr Jenny Moffett previously of the University of Surrey, herself a veterinarian with a keen interest in communication and pet loss support.
Susan said: “Vet school training on end of life and euthanasia is still sparse, as many vets will agree. I see the online course as being about learning to care rather than to cure, giving vets the confidence and skill to show real compassion while remaining professional.”
For more information on Compassion Understood contact Helen Tottey – by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 07872 015298.