The Unsung Healthcare Warriors of the Animal Kingdom

by Shweta Ramkumar

We often emphasise on how doctors, nurses, paramedics and allied health workers are the backbone of a country’s healthcare system and their vital role in treating and saving human lives. However, a highly underrated, undervalued, underpaid and unrecognised heroes of our healthcare system are veterinarians and veterinary nurses or technicians.

As an ardent pet lover and owner myself, veterinary staff have always played a pivotal role in my life as they have been the go-to person during times of crises and emergencies when my own pets or the pets I’ve cared for have been in distress. I’m also an avid fan of Veterinary TV shows such as Vet on the Hill, Bondi Vet, Vet Life, Bionic Vet and The Yorkshire Vet. I have always admired them, have had the greatest respect for them and even considered pursuing a career in the field at one point. Unlike other healthcare professionals who specialise in different fields of medicines, skillset, types of patients and body parts, veterinary staff single-handedly do everything from radiology scans, pathology tests, diagnostic, surgery, occupational and geriatric treatment. Standard healthcare professionals only deal with one species of patients – humans, whereas veterinary ones work with all creatures big and small, both in domesticated and wildlife settings, and are hence expected to be well-versed and experienced in the anatomy and physiology of more than one species of animals. Regular healthcare professionals are usually responsible for the lives of one patient at a time; whereas veterinary ones carry the burden of the lives of the health and well-being of both animals and their human owners.

It is no surprise that over the last few decades, people working in this industry have experienced one of the highest rates of burnouts, mental health challenges, suicide rates and lack of staff retention than any other industries. When I first heard of this statistic, it surprised me as my impression of working as a veterinary staff meant cuddling and playing all day with animals, but after interacting with many people who previously worked in this field, I saw a very different picture. They all unanimously mentioned poor salary, excessive workload, lack of support, the daily trauma their job involves when treating and euthanising sick vulnerable animals and the abusive and disrespectful behaviour they face at the hands of their clients on a regular basis as a reason why people are leaving the profession in droves. It certainly made me glad to have dodged the bullet of not going down this career path !

I was recently on vacation with my partner and dog in a small coastal town called Warrnambool which is about 4 hours from Melbourne, Australia where we live. We were hit with a unfortunate and stressful situation there of our dog injuring his back leg which warranted a visit to the local Veterinary Clinic to check for any serious internal fractures. While we were lucky to have got an appointment on the very same day when he was injured, our experienced at the clinic with the staff was less than pleasant. The young veterinarian who was treating my dog demonstrated a lack of empathy, compassion and wanting to hear me out as a stressed out, anxious and overwhelmed dog owner. She also barely took the time to bond with my dog and make him feel comfortable and relaxed. While I was given marching orders for the time needed to sedate him for further examination, there was no follow up correspondence from them on when he was finished and when we could collect him till I had to follow up with them. Additionally, while she gave a through diagnosis and prescribed relevant treatment for his injury, just demonstrating that she cared about me or my dog’s well-being and understood the worry I went through for having had this happen during our vacation would have made all the difference in our experience with her. On the other hand, the interactions I have had with veterinary staff in Melbourne have literally been night and day, particularly in the way they supported us during our grieving period of the loss of our previous family dog.

I’m not trying to throw all veterinary staff under the bus here and am not denying that a lot of clients they deal with everyday are disrespectful, abusive and plain feral. This was why I tried not to be very demanding or pushy as a client as I understand the stress their job entails and how clients make it a bigger challenge. It did however highlight the importance of communication skills amongst healthcare professionals with their clients for them to get the most reward out of their careers, retain existing clients, get new ones and build their professional competence. I would also add that people regard their pets as another family member, not to mention one who cannot vocalise or articulate their suffering in words. Pet owners become an absolute mess upon seeing their beloved babies injured, sick or unwell, and are devastated during their pets’ final days. Hence, developing the core skills of compassion, empathy, assertiveness, honesty and transparency would not only ease the pain they experience but it could also possibly be a winning situation for the doctors and nurses.

Are you a veterinary professional whose first language isn’t English ? Would you like to improve your communication and rapport building skills with your clients to provide them the best service and experience while getting the joy, recognition and reward you deserve in your career ? Schedule a complimentary discovery call with me to see how I can best support you in your journey.

Hi, I'm Shweta

I coach non-native English speaking healthcare professionals how to advance in their career and build better relationships with their patients and colleagues by expressing themselves more articulately and confidently in the English language.

I work closely with healthcare professionals who work with patients regularly. I help them improve their communication skills when interacting with patients and colleagues, teach them how to show up authentically, assertively and articulately in their field of work in order for them to ultimately gain credibility, validation and respect.

If you work in a clinical role in the healthcare industry and would like to learn more about how to better connect and communicate openly with your clients / patients, book a complimentary 30 minute discovery call with me to see how I can best support you.

Shweta Ramkumar - English Language Confidence Coach

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