The Empathic Veterinarian

I am a good doctor. Those were the words I kept telling myself.  I drove the scenic road back home hoping to catch a glimmer of my spirit animal.  The beautiful drive from my home to the clinic went through the part of the mountains where one could catch a glimmer of one of earths finest blessings, the wild mustang. Horses could always heal my heart in less than a heartbeat.

I am a good doctor. I repeated this mantra with every attempt to wipe the tears from my eyes. I wanted to make sure I would be able distinguish between a boulder and the magnificent creature that God created from the wind. I am a good doctor, I am a good doctor, I am a good doctor, I told myself over and over. I don’t recall if I saw any wild mustangs that day but I do know that they were there, healing me, like they always do.

It was Christmas Eve, Eve, and I was driving home after euthanizing a pet I just diagnosed with an endocrine disorder. I was trying to console myself because if I wasn’t a good doctor the pet would have been treated empirically and gone home to spend another holiday with his human family.

Wait, that’s not right is it? If I wasn’t a good doctor the pet would have gone home and continued his suffering holiday or not. Adding Christmas to the mix pulls on your heart-strings. Especially when the owner tells you he lost his other pet right about the time of his birthday.

The decision regarding the fate of my patient, of course, wasn’t mine but if I wasn’t a good doctor the owner wouldn’t have had the diagnosis so fast and wouldn’t have had to make any quality of life decisions until after the holidays. But I am a good doctor.

Veterinarians are often times affected by the day in and day out of the profession. Some suffer in silence. Some don’t even know how much they are affected until its too late. I’m sharing this story because compassion fatigue is a very real issue in veterinary medicine today. I personally know two local veterinarians who ended their lives. Far too many colleagues are no longer living their life purpose of healing due to compassion fatigue.  Not very long ago I didn’t want anything to do with the profession. I have finally found my tribe and practice balance on a daily basis. I am so grateful for all the blessings in my life. Often times the healer needs healing.  For me, art heals.