World Veterinary Day 2022 : Strengthening veterinary resilience

Dr K Rashbehari Singh
Contd from last Sunday
Compassion fatigue: Compassion fatigue is a term that describes the physical, emotional, and psychological impact of helping others, often through experiences of stress or trauma.  Compassion fatigue is a result of an emotional depletion due to the nature of their work. Veterinary nursing is a caring profession and those who seek a career within this profession suffer from compassion fatigue because of a natural desire to care for animals. The individuals, who are the most caring and empathic towards others, will be most at risk from experiencing compassion fatigue.
An individual who is suffering from compassion fatigue may become more cynical and show a lack of compassion towards patients and clients and may become increasingly anti-social both at work and at home.  Although compassion fatigue can have detrimental effects on an employee who is experiencing it, it may also affect others in the workplace, if measures were not taken in an effective way to deal with the problem.        
In order to avoid the spread of compassion fatigue, it is important to ensure that staff are able to recognize the signs of compassion fatigue in each other and are able to engage in healthy coping strategies. Healthy coping strategies may include appropriate debriefing sessions among willing participants, particularly after an emotionally stressful encounter with the client (e.g. euthanasia of a pet). One’s ability to find happiness in their work is another area that has been recognised to act as a buffering type mechanism against compassion fatigue and burnout.  An improvement in the health of a patent or gratitude from a client may provide satisfaction to one’s role in veterinary nursing.      
Two key factors that influence adaptive outcomes and enhance resilience are mindfulness and self-compassion.    
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us. Mindfulness has been shown to be associated with lower depression, burnout, and anxiety.  
Veterinary students, like other university students, are likely to experience elevated levels of stress, anxiety and depression over the course of their studies. Veterinary students who regularly engage in mindfulness practice once a week or more throughout the semester  reported significantly lower depression and anxiety symptoms  than those who practice less than once a week. Engaging regularly in mindfulness practice potentially acted as a protective factor for students already experiencing at least a mild range of symptoms of anxiety and depression at the beginning of the semester. Learning about mindfulness may be useful in assisting students to manage academic stress, anxiety, and depression, cultivate a physical and mental state of calm, be more present and emphatic with clients, and be more focused and attentive in professional practice settings.
 Self-compassion :  Self-compassion is viewed as compassion directed inwards and relates to how individuals perceive themselves in times of distress and suffering. Self-compassion comprises three interacting elements, self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Higher self-compassion may be associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety and decreases cortisol and heart rate variability.    
Career resilience can be developed and strengthened through strategies aimed at reducing vulnerability to stressors and managing the impact of adversity in the workplace.
Developing specific characteristics and attitudes: People with resilient characteristics tend to interpret stressful circumstances as relatively non-threatening and frequently exhibit a ‘hardy’ personality. Hardiness is defined as responding to stressful situations with commitment (vs. alienation), control (vs. powerlessness) and challenge (vs. threat). Hardy people are also more likely to believe that they have the inner resources to overcome difficult life events. A hardy approach involves reflecting on your circumstances, diagnosing what can be done to resolve difficulties faced and implementing necessary steps for change. A person’s sense of control over life and career can be increased by sustained practice of such an approach.            
Self-care : The ability to self-care and take time out for oneself is a constant challenge faced by veterinary workers. Individuals who are resilient are more likely to take care of their health through adequate sleep and exercise, good nutrition, defined ‘time off’ from work and attention to spiritual beliefs.
(To be contd)