If you asked me to describe myself, the first thing that comes to mind is “I’m a Vet Nurse”.
Strictly speaking, that’s not true. I was a qualified Vet Nurse.
These days, I’m a sales rep for a fantastic pet food company. Together with a team of passionate volunteers, I run a nationwide rehoming program. I’m a partner, sister, daughter, friend.
Mum to 4 dogs, 3 cats and a sheep named Maryanne.
I was a Vet Nurse. I lived and breathed Vet Nursing.
But I burned out.
It’s a weird feeling to write about it. But it’s something that needs to be said. We’re starting to talk about emotional fatigue a lot more these days, the awareness is (thankfully) growing, and steps are being taken to avoid this situation where possible. But I still feel like Nurses aren’t being represented here. And I bet I’m not the only one.
In the beginning, everyone said to me “You’ll learn to deal with this better as time goes on”. “Euthanasia gets easier with practice”, “You’ll learn that it’s not your place to cry”.
In my experience, this only got harder with time. It wears you down after a while. There are days when you are saving lives. But there are so many days when you aren’t. And there’s always the lack of money, lack of care, lack of education that compounds this.
Vet Nurses out there, you are important. You aren’t just the assistant who cleans up after the Vet and serves clients, and preps for surgery.
Vet Nurses are at the front line every day. We meet your dog on his first visit at 8 weeks old, take him through puppy class and desexing, we know his name, your name, your kids’ names.
Every milestone in his life, we share with you. He becomes a part of our family too, and so do you. And we grieve with you when the time comes to end a beautiful life.
Vet Nurses are advocates, trusted advisors, friends, confidants, social workers. They are caregivers, experts in their field. Anaesthetists, surgical assistants, radiographers, nutritional advisors.
And on top of all this, they are the support team for their Vets.
For the most part, Vet Nurses do this for less than $20/hour, up to 7 days a week, more often than not outside of normal working hours.
And it’s hard work emotionally.
Eventually I realised I was getting panicky about going to work in the morning. The phone ringing made me want to scream, everybody needed me ALL the time. And I just couldn’t DEAL with it anymore.
So much sadness. So much need.
So I resigned after 7 years. Took a 3 month break and tried again.
But it just wasn’t the same.
Will I go back to it? Hopefully one day, but right now I just don’t know that I can.
If you’re reading this and it’s striking a chord with you, I encourage you to talk to someone. See what the options are for sharing some of the load. It’s so important in this job that you care. But it’s even more important that the burden of caring is shared around.
You only have so much to give before there’s nothing left.
The writer has chosen to remain anonymous.