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So what exactly is a 'Wellbeing Coach' for veterinarians?

Posted in 1. Mental health resources @ Jul 10th 2014 - By Nadine Hamilton, Psychologist / Wellbeing Coach for Vets
Pic Nadine 2

I came across Nadine and her work via Twitter (I really do meet amazing people via Twitter!) and was fascinated to hear about her role as a 'Wellbeing Coach for Vets' and I wanted to know more so I contacted her & asked her a few questions...

1. What's your ‘Wellbeing Coach for Veterinarians’ business all about?

After working for many years as a psychologist in a range of industries (most recently in my counselling business), and through my Doctoral research with Vets and their well-being, I was ready to make a shift with what I do and focus on coaching rather than counselling.  Working as a well-being coach for veterinarians enables me to work with compassionate vets who love what they do, and help them to avoid burnout – meaning they can keep their head in the game and continue to build a thriving practice, but also having a life they love.

2. Why did you choose to focus on the veterinary industry?

From as early as I can remember, I always wanted to be a Vet and have always loved animals.  However, I soon realised that I was way too queasy to be a Vet, nor did I think I would ever be able to euthanize an animal.  It was by chance that a locum working at our regular vet practice mentioned the high rate of suicide that vets have (twice as likely as other health professionals, and four times as likely as the general population!), and I “knew” I had to do something to help.  I started my Doctor of Education degree a few years ago, which is focusing on vet well-being and looking at Positive Psychology as an intervention.

3. What are some of the warning signs that those working in the veterinary industry should be aware of that may indicate they’re suffering from burnout?

Feeling stressed, overwhelmed, depressed, no motivation, not wanting to go to work and feeling sick or anxious at the thought of going to work, ruminating over all the bad things etc.  Generally, the thought of “I just can’t do this anymore”.  Some of the contributing factors to this are pet euthanasia, compassion fatigue, dealing with unrealistic expectations of owners, and financial issues (such as knowing they could help an animal but the owners are unable to afford treatment – resulting in euthanasia). 

4. What should they do if the signs listed above are too familiar?

Seek help!  There are lots of sources of help available – telephone help lines, seeing your GP, seeing an experienced psychologist etc.  Personally, I believe that prevention is better than cure, hence my decision to work as a Coach with veterinarians to provide them with effective coping strategies to deal with the demands of the job, to try and avoid things getting to burnout stage.  Alternatively, they can talk to me and I can lead them in the right direction as to what help would be most appropriate.

5. Tell us about the Doctoral research you’re currently undertaking

My research is focusing on the phenomenology of being a Vet, and in particular, what is so difficult about pet euthanasia (which we know from other research is a major contributing factor to Vet burnout and suicide).  Unlike other research in this area though, we are also looking at an intervention in order to try and address this problem from a more proactive perspective.  If the research is validated, we hope to see it form part of the core curriculum for future Vet students at Uni.

6. You also specialise in pet grief/loss – is that a service for pet owners?

Yes. This came about after the sudden death of our 12-year old Burmese cat (Dakota), which was followed three weeks later by having to have our beautiful Labby-X (Caddy) euthanized.  Caddy was nearly 16 years old, but was one of the most amazing dogs I have known, and we had a very special bond.  I started journaling prior to and after her journey to the Rainbow Bridge, which I am hoping to turn into a book one day (it also has self-help suggestions in there as well).  It became apparent to me when we lost our pets (and even during the prior losses of other pets we have owned) that there is so much stigma around pet loss, and some people just do not understand how much grief there can be when you lose a pet.  So I decided to try and break down this stigma by specialising in this area.

7. What do you see as being the biggest issue that those working in the veterinary industry currently face?

Certainly, from the research I have read and conducted so far, the main issues are around euthanasia, compassion fatigue, dealing with owners, and financial issues (which contribute to burnout and suicide).  I think there is a risk of this trend continuing if there are not appropriate interventions put into place.  I also think those working in the industry should put their well-being first, and not be afraid to seek help if they need it.

8. What do you think would make the biggest difference to those working in the veterinary industry?

Being proactive – working with a coach or mentor to learn effective coping strategies and ways to deal with the demands of the job.

9. What question/s do you think I should have asked you but didn’t?

None that I can think of!  Except I guess letting Vets (and Vet nurses and support staff) know that there is help available, and I offer a complimentary 10-minute strategy session to see how I can help them, and if they are suited to my coaching programs.

If you have any questions to ask Nadine about her 'Wellbeing Coaching' for Vets or anything else at all why not ask her in the comments section below?

Nadine is a fully-registered psychologist with a Master in Training & Development degree.  She has an extensive background in training, counselling, and occupational rehabilitation and has worked in a variety of organisations and industries for over 25 years including health, education, retail, hospitality and financial services. She is also a Member of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). Nadine is currently undertaking both Doctoral research into the benefits of positive psychology and veterinarian well-being and is studying a Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services course as well as currently training one of her gorgeous Labradors (Jenna) to become a therapy dog.  She is one of the few known practitioners on the Gold Coast to specialise in positive psychology, and the only known psychologist on the Gold Coast (and possibly Queensland and maybe Australia!) to specialise in pet grief/loss.  

Connect with Nadine via:

Love Your Pet Love Your Vet  |  Love Your Pet Love Your Vet FB Page  |  Positive Psych Solutions


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