The Whole Veterinarian

Ways to Handle Compassion Fatigue in Vet Med featuring Julie Squires

August 06, 2020 Julie Squires Season 1 Episode 9
The Whole Veterinarian
Ways to Handle Compassion Fatigue in Vet Med featuring Julie Squires
Chapters
The Whole Veterinarian
Ways to Handle Compassion Fatigue in Vet Med featuring Julie Squires
Aug 06, 2020 Season 1 Episode 9
Julie Squires

Julie Squires spent some time talking with me about the significant role that compassion fatigue plays in many of our lives. As she says, it's not only the patient trauma that we deal with every day, we also have to consider the compassion we extend to clients and team members. I hope you gain as much from her insights as I have in this episode!

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About Julie!
Julie Squires is a Certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist and Certified Life Coach who brings a unique perspective and approach to support the sustained energy and passion of those exposed to the highly stressful, challenging and sometimes traumatic environment of veterinary medicine . She does this in a very distinct way, by empowering them to help themselves through easy-to-implement yet powerful practices, tools and insights. 

Julie has over twenty-five years of experience within the veterinary industry as a veterinary technician, hospital administrator and leading organizations, developing and executing training and workshops most notably for Nestlé Purina, Bayer Animal Health and IDEXX Laboratories.  She is a Certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist through the Traumatology Institute. 

Julie is a recognized international speaker and also offers on-site seminars and workshops, online courses, private coaching and the Rekindling podcast all as a result of the need Julie saw to help those that work with animals maintain their wellbeing and mental health. Julie lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband John, pugs Ernie & Mabel and Gregg & Duane, their two cats.

www.rekindlesolutions.com
julie@rekindlesolutions.com
Find the Rekindling Podcast here!

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Resources for You!
-Professional Quality of Life Measure quiz
-Online Guide to Understand and Overcome Your Compassion Fatigue
-A Guide to Understanding and Coping with Compassion Fatigue
-AVMA Wellbeing Resources

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Ways to connect with The Whole Veterinarian!
Instagram: @thewholeveterinarian
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thewholeveterinarian/
Email: thewholeveterinarian@gmail.com
www.thewholeveterinarian.com

....
Music Credit: Journey of Hope by Alexander Nakarada



Show Notes Transcript

Julie Squires spent some time talking with me about the significant role that compassion fatigue plays in many of our lives. As she says, it's not only the patient trauma that we deal with every day, we also have to consider the compassion we extend to clients and team members. I hope you gain as much from her insights as I have in this episode!

...

About Julie!
Julie Squires is a Certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist and Certified Life Coach who brings a unique perspective and approach to support the sustained energy and passion of those exposed to the highly stressful, challenging and sometimes traumatic environment of veterinary medicine . She does this in a very distinct way, by empowering them to help themselves through easy-to-implement yet powerful practices, tools and insights. 

Julie has over twenty-five years of experience within the veterinary industry as a veterinary technician, hospital administrator and leading organizations, developing and executing training and workshops most notably for Nestlé Purina, Bayer Animal Health and IDEXX Laboratories.  She is a Certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist through the Traumatology Institute. 

Julie is a recognized international speaker and also offers on-site seminars and workshops, online courses, private coaching and the Rekindling podcast all as a result of the need Julie saw to help those that work with animals maintain their wellbeing and mental health. Julie lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband John, pugs Ernie & Mabel and Gregg & Duane, their two cats.

www.rekindlesolutions.com
julie@rekindlesolutions.com
Find the Rekindling Podcast here!

...

Resources for You!
-Professional Quality of Life Measure quiz
-Online Guide to Understand and Overcome Your Compassion Fatigue
-A Guide to Understanding and Coping with Compassion Fatigue
-AVMA Wellbeing Resources

...

Ways to connect with The Whole Veterinarian!
Instagram: @thewholeveterinarian
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thewholeveterinarian/
Email: thewholeveterinarian@gmail.com
www.thewholeveterinarian.com

....
Music Credit: Journey of Hope by Alexander Nakarada



Stacey Cordivano :

Today's guest is Julie Squires. Julie is a certified compassion fatigue specialist, a certified life coach and the founder of Rekindle LLC, which is a coaching and training platform. She's also the host of the Rekindling Podcast and a mommy to two very cute little pugs. Welcome, Julie.

Julie Squires :

Thank you Stacey. It's so cool to be here with you.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, this is fun. So obviously, compassion fatigue and burnout are pretty big buzzwords lately in veterinary medicine, with good reason. I was hoping you could give kind of your definition and how you see it playing out in veterinary medicine currently.

Julie Squires :

Well, it's kind of interesting that you're asking especially now while we're in the current climate that we're in how compassion fatigue is playing out, because it's almost like we have to look at compassion fatigue almost in two different ways. Meaning that there's the compassion fatigue from the work but then there's the compassion fatigue from this virus and what we're experiencing in the world. To a large degree, the entire world is experiencing compassion fatigue, they don't even probably know it because they don't know what it is as it relates to COVID. But when we come back to veterinary medicine, you know, compassion fatigue, by definition, is the cumulative effect of bearing witness to others pain and suffering. And that others pain and suffering, like naturally we think about our patients, but it's also our clients and it's also each other. Sometimes we, I think, downplay the impact that the work has on us because to some degree, we have to, first of all get used to it because every day is trauma. Like there is traumatic things happening all of the time.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, it becomes normal, right?

Julie Squires :

And it has to become normal to some degree, otherwise everyone would be in the fetal position and no one would be surviving. I mean, you know, and then there's that I think about like on the equine side and large animal side, I'm involved with a farm animal sanctuary, which, you know, in a sanctuary, all the animals are old, you know, there's tons of death because they live the rest of their lives. There are, I think all the time about like euthanasia, and it's one thing to euthanize a small animal and I don't have the experience here. It's got to be something otherworldly to euthanize an 800 pound or in some instances, a 1500 pound animal that then drops to the ground like that impact, like, and we don't even talk about it.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, it does just become normal because that doesn't seem like a big deal to me. But if you break it down, then sure you're thinking about the safety of everyone around you, you try not to get smushed, you try not to let their head fall down too hard. Yeah. Yeah, there's a lot that goes into it.

Julie Squires :

Yeah, of course, we do have to get used to it to some degree. But yet the problem is where compassion fatigue comes in is that we get used to it, but yet, the emotions, those aren't things that I don't think we ever really, truly get used to and what to do with those. And do we make the time for ourselves to allow ourselves to feel some of that?

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, I mean, I know in my case, the answer is no. I don't make...I didn't anyway, I might, I might be starting to now but I never did make space for it, but it just didn't seem like something anyone does. I would care to generalize that most at least equine vets don't make space for that. And so you're kind of insinuating that that is a big part of why then the fatigue comes in.... because there's been zero processing of...

Julie Squires :

Yeah, so we've just talked about euthanasia. And it was it's interesting that I'm even talking about euthanasia because I don't really talk a lot about euthanasia. Because by and large, if I were to say like euthanasia, of course is one of the contributing factors to compassion, fatigue, but there's a gazillion others, right.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah.

Julie Squires :

And what happens over time is when we're just constantly pushing down on our emotions, and we're not feeling anything and we're running away from them. We're on to the next thing because that's what veterinary medicine requires is like, Come on, get with it.

Stacey Cordivano :

Next call, next appoitnment, next person here..

Julie Squires :

Right to some degree like you have to almost be like an actor in a performance because the next client doesn't really care what happened on the last call like, I need you here now my horse is sick. And so then you have to compartmentalize... shove it down. And unless you're skilled number one and mindful number two to say at the end of the day, wait a minute, like, let me just reflect for a moment what was my day? Like? What were the challenging things? And can I just make a little space for myself to kind of allow myself to feel those feelings so that they don't build up over time and something like somebody cutting me off on the freeway turns into like a road rage episode for me because I haven't dealt with anything?

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, for sure. So you coach people individually in an areas like this, what are some things that you hear when people are coming to you like, what are some examples of,

Julie Squires :

Well, the most heartbreaking thing in it and I hear it all of the time. The number one one thing I hear, and it comes later in one's career, but what ends up happening is people come to me and they say, I feel lost. My life has been all about veterinary medicine. I've loved it. It's been rewarding on one hand, but I'm now looking at my life and I realized that that's all it's been. And I feel to some degree like my family, sometimes they seem like strangers. I don't know who I am outside of vet med. And I feel lost. I feel stuck. That's the number one thing I hear.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, that doesn't surprise me because I can relate.

Julie Squires :

And to a large degree, the profession, I say this, with all due respect, the profession will suck you dry if you allow it to.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah.

Julie Squires :

And it's the most amazing profession on Earth. I am in deep honor and reverence for all veterinarians, all veterinary professionals. I am so thankful that you do what you do. But my message always to you is, it's part of what you do. It's not all of who you are. You have to really learn how to have some boundaries, you have to learn how to say no. You have to step away and create a whole other life for yourself. Because here's what I know for sure. When you do when you find things outside of that med that fill you up, you then are able to come to the profession full, versus depleted. And what ends up happening is, it's not our fault. I think to some degree, society has taught us that our job is who we are. Our job is where we get fulfillment. And we put all this pressure on veterinary medicine to fulfill us and it does to a large degree but it's not our jobs job to 100% fulfill us. That's too much to ask of Veterinary Medicine, to be quite honest. We do have to balance our lives with other things of who we are as a person.

Stacey Cordivano :

Say there's someone listening that feels like that resonated with them, also. What's like a good first step of trying to get out of this fog?

Julie Squires :

like, Huh, what are the cliffnotes? Julie, we need this down and dirty.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, right. We don't have a lot of time. I know this is your entire job and you do it for a living, but...

Julie Squires :

Quickly, what this is about is developing a relationship with yourself. And we can sort of go down the path of like self care, like what am I doing for myself? Do I know how to take some time for myself, whether it's to sit outside and look at the birds, whether it's to, you know, go and groom my own horse, whether it's to read something that has nothing to do with my work, whether it's to go on a hike. What am I doing for me, like how am I developing a relationship with myself? Do I know who I am? Am I showing myself love and respect every single day? And this is where the rubber meets the road because most of us, and I can only speak from my own life, I think we're born having a relationship with ourselves and then as soon as we start interacting with other human beings, we sort of pull away from ourselves because we start getting all of these messages about the things being wrong with us based on other people's interpretation. So then we move away from ourselves, and we keep looking outside of ourselves for validation. We have parents, we're always looking to them, am I good enough? Then we go to school, our teachers, then you go to vet school, it's all about, Hey, are you are you meeting somebody else's standards? So then our work is to come back to ourselves. And that takes effort. It takes some time. It takes intention of You know what, I'm worthy of my own time and attention. And how can I do that today? Like, what can I do with with myself for 15 minutes today? That just setting the intention that I think I'm worth my own time and attention. I know, those are kind of vague suggestions.

Stacey Cordivano :

I mean, I think that's a great place to start. I think someone might say, I don't have time. I don't have time for that. I mean, I can see myself a couple years ago, saying htat. You're saying even if it's 10 or 15 minutes, just quiet time or, like you said all the different ways, 10 or 15 minutes might be enough to get you started on reconnecting with yourself?

Julie Squires :

Yes, absolutely. Because what ends up happening is, what I know, for the vast majority of my clients, they're so busy judging themselves all the time and beating themselves up mentally. And in order to actually start changing that conversation in one's head we need to figure out who the heck we are. And who we are, the definition of who we are isn't based on somebody else, the definition of who we are is who we decide we are, and you have to go inside to figure that out and you just have to decide who you are. There's no memo... I'm not going to get you know, an email today from anyone that's going to tell me who I am. A text message will not come from my Creator or anything to say, hey, Julie, wanted to let you know who you are. I have to just decide that for myself and then live my life in that intention.

Stacey Cordivano :

I think definitely what I hear in there also is a lot of boundary work is required. Which is hard for us.

Julie Squires :

Right, let's talk a little bit about boundaries. Because boundaries are so misunderstood. We think boundaries are all about controlling your equine owners, or the clients or our significant others or our parents. Boundaries are not about controlling anybody. Boundaries are about hey, you can make all the requests of me that you want. And here's what I will do. Boundaries are about ...you behave how you behave, and here's what I will do to protect myself. You can ask me to come to my farm at 10 o'clock at night, and I can say no. like, I can't stop you from asking me that. Like we think that a boundary is well no, they have to stop asking me it's like No, they don't. A boundary isn't about changing anyone else's behavior. It's about Hey, person, you get to behave how you want in the world, but I need to do what I need to do to To protect myself, I need to decide what I will and will not tolerate from others. And the way we do that is not by controlling them. It's about controlling self to be like, Hey, you know what, if I come to your farm and you start pointing at my face and screaming vulgarities at me, my boundary is I walk away and get in my truck and I leave. That's a boundary. I can't stop you from screaming and yelling at me.

Stacey Cordivano :

Okay, so I, I sort of asked a question for the people that feel like this is relatable. Say there's someone out there that's like, No, I'm fine. I love my job. I'm good. Are there any symptoms of burnout that aren't as obvious as like, I don't feel like I love veterinary medicine anymore?

Julie Squires :

Well, burnout is a little bit different than compassion fatigue. So burnout does not have any trauma component burnout simply well, simply, I love when I say that. burnout occurs when the work exceeds the resources all of the time when we ask people to do too much with too little too many calls. Not enough doctors not enough you know, time like too much, too little. Too many animals, too many horses to take care of only one vet.

Stacey Cordivano :

Got it. Okay.

Julie Squires :

So that's how one can be burned out if they work at, you know, grocery store. There's no trauma component there. It's literally about the work on it work exceeding resources. So to answer your question, Are there people who are either suffering from compassion fatigue or burnout that don't know it? Yes, but they won't feel good... that I know. They're not going to be going through their life like I love my life. And then there's, you know, compassion fatigue hiding in the corner. What it will be is, they won't feel good. There'll be angry, resentful, they might have some physical issues, digestive problems, maybe they're not sleeping, maybe they're drinking too much. They may not know that it's compassion, fatigue or burnout, but things won't be going so well in their life. There will be some negative consequences or some negative component to that, I guess would be a better way to say it.

Stacey Cordivano :

Okay. Good to know. I think you have a term for it, called overing, where you sort of overdo things to make other parts of your life easier to deal with. Do you see that a lot?

Julie Squires :

Yeah, I mean, I see that a lot in society. And of course, veterinary medicine mimics society to some large degree in that. Yeah, we over... so what that means is when we're using any external thing to change the way we feel emotionally, which is very convenient. Now we have phones, we have wine, we have food, we have social media, we have Instagram, like there's a mill, we have work. We have work. Like there's so many opportunities to over to, to overdo things in an attempt to try to squash out or minimize the negative emotions that we feel.

Stacey Cordivano :

Gotcha. And so then again, you kind of need to go back to looking in yourself to see what is not feeling good.

Julie Squires :

Yeah. And again, we come back to this. What is my relationship with with like myself? Am I mindful of how I feel? Am I spending a little time? Like it came through recently on a workshop that I was doing, like people were putting in the chat how they're so good at taking care of others and so terrible at taking care of themselves. And I was like, Oh, I hear that a lot. And that is something that if that resonates with you, that's something you really want to change.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah. Got it. How did you get into this work?

Julie Squires :

Yeah, well, I didn't go searching for this work. I didn't set out to do this work. It found me. It came for me and it called me I don't know how else to say that. But my long history in veterinary medicine, 25 years, exposed me to lots of veterinarians, lots of veterinary professionals. And I saw this deep sense of I saw well on one hand, we love the work on one hand, we love nothing more than fixing animals on one hand, we love seeing animals get better, we love seeing them be discharged from the hospital or, you know, in your case, making farm calls and helping them where they're at, like, we love that. But I saw such a deep level of also emotional exhaustion and fatigue. And then it started to kind of bubble up like all the sudden clients became the villains in the story. And I kept thinking, wow, that's something that's not helpful. And then, of course, I was exposed to a lot of veterinarians that I knew that had taken their own life. And that didn't sit well with me. I watched that I internalized it. And it mirrored my own life in some degree because I was miserable in my own life. And I was abusing food, drugs and alcohol all to try to escape the way that I felt. And I thought, gosh, you know, as much as I hate to admit it, like how many steps am I away from? Like when we start doing all of those behaviors and we're hating our life, I get why suicide feels like an option to people. And that scared me too. And I thought, wow, like, I've got to do something here or at least die trying. So that's where I'm at.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, that's amazing. You were talking about the clients as the villains. And I feel like especially right now, I mean, if you're on any of the veterinary Facebook groups, any of the listeners, I think this is maybe a little bit more of a small animal issue. I feel like maybe the equine people haven't changed quite so much. But it seems like they are swamped. And everyone just keeps saying how the clients are really demanding and not understanding of being behind. Do you think that has to do with the actual client? Or then maybe do you think that it's just that they are really fatigued and it seems like less ability to deal with the clients?

Julie Squires :

I think it's that we're in the middle of a freakin pandemic, which anyone who's alive right now has never experienced anything like this. This is otherworldly. The world has been flipped upside down. Everything we thought we knew is different. There's so much uncertainty. We are human beings who don't know how to handle our emotions. And when human beings don't know how to handle their emotions, and we haven't done anything wrong, we just haven't been taught how to handle our emotions. None of us are doing anything wrong. But since we haven't been taught how to manage our emotions, feel our emotions, they're coming out in all sorts of ways, like rage in the you know, veterinary hospital parking lot like anger, like frustration on all sides of it. There's so much emotion going on right now. This is a really hard time for humans. Yeah. So I honestly think what you're seeing is humanity. And I love my veterinary world, but boy, oh, boy, do we have the tendency to take things personally, we think that clients are just saving up all of their anger and frustration for the veterinary hospital and I'm like, go to the grocery store. Do you see how people are behaving there?

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, that's a good point.

Julie Squires :

Yeah, and It's hard though. I do get veterinary folks, they're working their tails off inside the building, and then they come out and they're barrage with all of this animosity or emotion and they don't know what to do with it because they're working so hard. And and because they're working so hard, because the pace is so intense. They don't really have the reserves to deal with it. Yeah. And here's the one thing I will say though, so I have been to my own veterinarian twice and I also went to an exotic pet and at the exotic pet This is a place I've never been to before. I waited in the parking lot for an hour and a half before they came to get my guy and I'm super chill because of the work I do. But the average person it's just having some understanding for it's not so great on the client side of this either like sitting in the parking lot in your car, having your pet taken away from you talking to people that you can't see their mouths move. This is a field of I don't care if it's equine large animal, small animal. This is a field of connection. The reason why this all works is because we connect with each other in order to make animals lives better. And it's really hard to connect just with people's eyes. Yeah. Or on the phone. That's not easy.

Stacey Cordivano :

Right. I think that's why we probably take it so personally, too, because we're used to having a pretty good connection and then to feel hurt by someone like that is, yeah, interesting. Yeah, I'll definitely link you know, all your contact information for people to find, but I would definitely highlight the podcasts that you have, because you cover a bunch of these topics. And they're all super relatable for veterinarians, and it's amazing. I think the resources you're offering are super powerful. So I appreciate that.

Julie Squires :

I'm really privileged to do it because everything that I teach is stuff that I've used in my own life to recover from all of those things to live a life now that literally is a life of my dreams. And that doesn't mean I feel good all the time. Matter of fact, I don't feel good all the time. Matter of fact, I woke up today you know, with such self doubt like was like crippling self doubt and I got coached on it. You know, I'm a coach, but I get coached, but have the tools now to be able to manage my life in such a way that I take responsibility for how I feel I don't blame others for how I feel. And that in and of itself is empowering. Because I have all of these tools to manage my mind to change what I'm thinking, which changes how I feel, which changes how I behave, that has turned my life completely upside down into a person that sometimes I look at in the mirror and I go, who is that person staring back at me, but I'm proud. I'm proud of the work that I've done on myself. And again, I had tons of help along the way and I feel I feel like I cannot hold myself back from trying to help others. Yeah, just and hey, I'm preaching to the choir. We we all share that in common.

Stacey Cordivano :

That's awesome. That's definitely inspiring. You know, I've started a little bit into mindfulness and personal development, but I'm not I'm not there. I've got some more work to do.

Julie Squires :

For sure. We all do.

Stacey Cordivano :

Nice to hear that. possible to get there? Well, I definitely want to let listeners know where they can find out more about you. Your website is awesome. What is that?

Julie Squires :

That is rekindlesolutions.com.

Stacey Cordivano :

And then I will definitely link to the podcast you can find rekindling I know on all your major podcast players, people can reach out to you, you know, personally right for hosting or

Julie Squires :

webinars. Yes, all of it.

Stacey Cordivano :

Great. This was fun. Thank you so much for joining me.

Julie Squires :

Thank you for having me. Transcribed by https://otter.ai