Saturday, August 22, 2015

Occupational risks and being fit-to-practise

It doesn't matter how fit you are: some occupational risks like Hendra virus can only be managed through use of vaccination and personal protective equipment. But other work-related injuries can be avoided if you look after yourself physically.

This week is the seventh anniversary of the death of Ben Cunneen, an equine veterinarian who became infected with Hendra virus during the course of his work. It was a very challenging time for the practice as many staff were exposed to the deadly virus. Natasha Wilks, who worked with Ben for a short time, wrote this post.

It’s an important reminder of the risks involved in treating animal patients. Many veterinarians and nurses are injured or infected in the course of their work. A very small number of these cases involve fatalities (one often overlooked cause is motor vehicle crashes – rural based vets in particular do a lot of driving, often at night, on some ordinary roads) but others cause chronic conditions that cause ongoing impairment/pain. Awareness about occupational risks in the industry is growing, which is great, but we’ve still got a long way to go. We are great at looking after people and their animals, but comparatively poor at looking after ourselves. 

Are you doing enough? This (scary) paper might give you some hints as to where you could improve in terms of protective gear.

What about those other injuries like terrible backs, necks and wrists that so many vets seem to have?

We don’t usually think about training for our jobs, but at least one paper equates being a vet or vet student to being an eliteperformer (I love this conjures images of drinking a revolting yet healthy smoothie and running down the street with strapped wrists punching the air to the Rocky theme music before work. This doesn't actually ever happen). Maybe we should be allocating time to ensure we're fit enough for work?

We're more about the gentle exercise here, unless it involves dancing around like a maniac now and then. SAT reader Mick sent this link about the impact of walking on one’s brain – and suggested it might impact dogs in the same way. Maybe so, but even if it doesn’t, it’s an easy sell – walking provides exercise, an escape from the confines of one’s regular environment, and mental stimulation. Now that spring is almost sprung, Phil and I are doing our best to do more of it. Probably without the Rocky theme song but you never know.