Friday, March 31, 2017

Stress in veterinary support staff, cartoons in medicine and nursing, and the icatcare street cat photo competition

Street cat, stray cat, street cat photography
Do you have a beautiful photo of a street cat?

As part of the Vet Cook Book I’ve been part of a team of volunteers looking at literature on sources of stress in the veterinary workplace and one of our team came across a great paper about Occupational Stress in Veterinary SupportStaff

The researchers used questionnaires and interviews to examine occupational stress, health stress and coping strategies of veterinary technicians in Alabama. The study found that mental health scores of this people were below the US norm. Key sources of stress included (but were not limited to) workload, death and dying, and conflict with veterinarians. There were some interesting themes that emerged from interviews, including that support staff often took the blame for negative outcomes, many idolised veterinarians, lots used unhealthy coping strategies like escape-avoidance, confrontational coping, alcohol and eating, and they found the demands of their job “all-consuming”.

Lots of stress came from “ambiguity, doctor’s disruptive behaviour, workload, inability to treat patients, pain and suffering of animals, euthanasia, environmental stressors, inability to separate from work duties, and uncertainty about future of their careers.”

Much of the literature about stress in the veterinary profession focuses on vets, yet our co-workers experience their own stressors and secondary trauma that deserves attention. It’s great to see plenty of support staff – from nurses and techs to kennelhands – have contributed to the book. You can help us out just by liking our facebook page.

The great part about this project is that our little team of volunteers is expanding here and there as people add their skills – from literature searching to tracking down unusual ingredients to testing recipes to matching tidying up our Google drive which did look a bit like someone has dropped a bag of flour in the kitchen. If anyone knows any good cartoonists out there, let us know.


Graphic medicine occurs when illustration meets medicine, resulting in some amazing comics and graphic novels aimed at medical education or at documenting people’s experience of illness (so-called “pathographies”). As far as I am aware there are no veterinary graphic novels, though happy to be corrected. This week I received and read/viewed a copy of Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS care unit 371 by @comicnurse MK Czerwiec. This is an amazing story of caring for patients during the period before and immediately after important discoveries were made about retroviral treatment. If you’re interested in the history of medicine/nursing, this is an amazing book. It touches on themes of loss, grief, self-care and hope. You can check it out here


If you have taken a great photo of a street cat, consider entering it into the ISFM Street Cat Photography exhibition. You can upload photos on the icatcare website or facebook page from April 1. Check out the details, and some lovely examples, here.