Board nominations are open | Australian Veterinary Association

Ready to steer your professional association towards its 100th year?

Board nominations are open

The AVA is seeking nominations for its Board. Can you join a team of leaders and represent your colleagues at the highest level in your association?“If you are interested in helping our profession, joining the Board is a great way to do that. You soon learn what matters to your fellow members and it is a privilege to be a voice for them,” AVA President, Robert Johnson said.Here are some tips and information to help you decide if joining the AVA Board might be the right thing for you now or in the future.

How the Board is formed

The AVA has nine directors. Six are elected directly by the general membership and three are nominated and appointed by the three largest special interest groups (ACV, EVA and ASAVA). Each director has a 3-year term, with a maximum of two successive terms. The President, Vice President and Treasurer are elected each year by the Board.Nominations are invited for two elected positions on the Board of Directors for a 3-year term to take office in May 2017. These elected positions in 2017 are in addition to a position to be nominated by Australian Cattle Veterinarians.

Who should nominate?

The first requirement is that candidates have prior experience as an office holder within a special interest group or division committee.“To be a good Board member, you need to be a good listener and then you need to take the information given to you and be a good advocate for the profession,” Board Director, Dr James Gilkerson said.Some additional skills and experience that are useful include being a member of community organisations, being a member of other boards and committees, a commitment to animal health and welfare, and the ability to prepare reports for the AVA Board.With a lot of the work involving the AVA’s groups and committees, communication and team work are key skills to bring to the AVA Board.“It helps to be patient, diplomatic and to communicate clearly. Directors need to have a broad knowledge of the different groups within the AVA and how they work together,” Dr Johnson said.

How do I nominate?

The Board has a Charter and a Code of Conduct that outline the expectations and operational details of the Board. All election candidates need to agree to abide by the Charter, the Code and the AVA Constitution before their nominations are accepted.You can request a copy of the Director’s information package (including the nomination form) from Amanda Webster: or 02 9431 5064.If you have questions or concerns, please contact Company Secretary, John Robb, on 02 9431 5040 or or Nominations must be received by 24 February 2017.

What does the Board do?

Directors have legal responsibility for the Australian Veterinary Association Limited (ACN 008 522 852) under the Corporations Act 2001 and they undertake mandatory training to help them understand and fulfil their legal responsibilities.These include ensuring that the AVA complies with all aspects of the law, risks are managed appropriately and all parts of the organisation are doing what they should be doing for the benefit of members.The Board sets the direction for the AVA, makes the big strategic decisions and ensures effective risk management.The Board appoints the Chief Executive Officer and is responsible for managing his or her performance. The CEO is responsible for managing the AVA’s employees and ensuring the Board’s strategy is put into action.

Marcia Balzer

National Public Affairs Manager

This article appeared in the December 2016 issue of the Australian Veterinary Journal

Source: Ready to steer your professional association towards its 100th year? Board nominations are open | Australian Veterinary Association

Vets’ mental health crisis: Nembutal in the spotlight

Photo: Canberra vet Alison Taylor, with Charlie the lagotto, says vets need a supportive environment. Picture: Ray Strange

The scourge of suicide is striking the veterinarian community more than any other industry and the official body representing vets is backing a clampdown on how the most commonly used death drug is managed.

Studies suggest vets ­commit suicide at four times the rate of the general population, commonly with the same drug they use to ­euthanise animals, pentobarbital.

The Australian Veterinary Assoc­iation is calling for laws that demand the drug be kept more ­securely in surgeries and vehicles, as there is no regulation on its storage at clinics. But it has rebuffed suggestions that the drug, also known as Nembutal, should be reclassified as a level eight controlled drug by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The government body is considering changing the classification of the drug to the same level as morphine, but the AVA said in its submission that this would do little to prevent suicide while making the role of animal welfare harder.

AVA policy manager Debbie Neutze said the change in classification would be too onerous, ­requiring an explanation for how every milligram of the drug was used and requiring pet owners’ names and addresses.

“Euthanasia in a veterinary practice is often undertaken in emergency situations, often involv­ing multiple patients, often out in the field, often with no actual­ owner,’’ Ms Neutze said.

“For example, vets use it to euthanase wildlife after bushfires.

“And it is a drug used in everyday vet practice, so the recording of every little milligram would be difficult.”

She added that the record-keeping requirements of the schedule eight classification were designed to tackle the ongoing abuse of drugs, which is not the case with pentobarbital users.

Ms Neutze noted there were various reasons for poor mental health in the industry, including a familiarity with euthanasia, the distress of putting down animals and high-pressure work. Vets are also surprisingly modestly paid, with an average wage of $79,000, lower than the national average.

The AVA was rolling out var­ious programs to address the problem, including a mentoring program for new vets, while teaching first aid in mental health.

A trustee of the AVA Benevolent Fund, Brian McErlean, said there was anecdotal evidence that the programs were working, with only one reported suicide in the profession in the past year.

Before this, over an 18-month period the AVA recorded six suicides, which equates to about 40 suicides per 100,000 people — four times the national average.

Canberra vet Alison Taylor is a part owner of five practices in the city and believes the industry has come a long way in dealing with the mental health of its workers.

She was a mentor to graduate vets and students and has taken the AVA’s mental health first-aid course.

“The main thing that leads to vets that don’t cope so well is when they are in an environment where that is not supported or recog­nised, where they don’t have enough support and they feel isol­ated,” Ms Taylor said.

“It is a high-pressure job and if there are not people looking out for them then that leads younger people to feel more vulnerable.”

Beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett said the suicide rate of vets was “a great concern”, adding that the issue was raised at the charity’s board meeting last week.

Source: Vets’ mental health crisis: Nembutal in the spotlight

Caring For Sick And Dying Animals Can Cause Compassion Fatigue

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Veterinarians say that helping suffering animals and stressed-out owners can become grueling.

When I walked dogs at a Chicago animal shelter, I wondered how each one got there. Whether a stitched-up pup shirked from my touch or happily greeted me tongue-first, my eyes would well up with salt. I wanted to keep them all.

People who work in animal shelters or veterinary clinics try to save the animals that come through their doors. But they’re at high risk of compassion fatigue, a sustained stress that takes a toll on a caregiver’s mind and body — and her heart.

It can morph into many forms: Some feel guilt or apathy, others turn to substance abuse. Little data exists, but research suggests veterinarian suicide rates are some of the highest in the medical field, and a 2014 study of about 10,000 veterinarians found twice as much “severe psychological distress” in them than in the general public. One 1 in 6 veterinary school graduates say they have considered suicide.

People in the animal community know this is a risk, and they have stories of people they’ve known who have taken their lives.

Among the biggest strains for animal shelter employees is euthanasia, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Derived from Greek terms that mean “good death,” euthanasia is viewed as a humane way to end an animal’s life by organizations including the American Veterinary Medical Association and PETA.

Though rates of animal euthanasia have sharply dropped in the last few decades, about3 million cats and dogs are estimated to be put down every year. When faced with alternatives like neglectful owners or living on the street, a peaceful death might be the most merciful option, says Stephany Lawrence, a former shelter intake and adoptions manager in Denver. Shelter life can be scary, even detrimental, especially if the animal is ill or has a behavioral issue.

“Nothing is worse than killing an animal, but it’s a really, really compassionate process,” Lawrence tells Shots. The euthanasia is quick; the employees are tender. But the grief of a life extinguished and the suffering that preceded it can linger. “What I struggled with was how anyone could give up a pet or treat animals as disposable items,” she says. “And I actually think that’s probably something shelter workers have a hard time with, as much, or even more so, than euthanasia.”

Private animal hospitals practice euthanasia, too, but there the patient is often a beloved pet. And veterinarians and staff have to manage both the end of the animal’s life and the humans’ grief.

On some days, the tide of clientele truncates how much time and compassion a doctor can give a dying patient or an owner trying to cope. That’s when the fatigue rears for Krista Magnifico, a veterinarian in Jarrettsville, Md., who writes a behind-the-scenes blog “You feel guilty because you’re not there for them in the capacity that you want to be,” she says.

Veterinarians and rescue workers face another challenge: stressed out and even hostile humans. One reason is cost. Veterinary care can be very expensive, even with insurance, and financial constraints can lead to tense situations. If they escalate, stepping out for a breather or bringing in another staffer can help. Sometimes, conflicts escalate to the point where a clinic has to call the police.

Magnifico won’t turn away clients who love and want to help their pet. But if they’re not empathetic to the animal, or the relationship has fractured and no longer benefits the pet, she’ll suggest alternatives, like seeing another clinic. “I have to be very true to the core of who I am,” she says. “And with that, I know that I’m not a veterinarian for everybody.”

Once someone brought in a dog with a bone tumor in its leg. To relieve the pet’s pain, a staff member at Magnifico’s clinic advised that the limb be amputated. But the owner declined the procedure, tied the dog to a tree in front of the clinic, and left.

Sometimes clients ask for convenience euthanasia. Other times, owners threaten to kill the pet themselves. In those cases, the people at the end of the leash cause the most distress for animal shelter and clinic employees.

“The rhythm of a healthy life is fill up, empty out; fill up, empty out,” says Patricia Smith, founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, which aims to help caregivers learn healthy forms of self care. But caregivers tend to spend their empathy on everyone but themselves, and they forget to refuel. “The result of that is we have nothing left to give,” Smith says. “We give from a place of depletion instead of abundance.”

“One of the hallmark signs of [compassion fatigue] is that you cannot undo what you’ve been exposed to, and your worldview is forever changed,” says Elizabeth Strand, founding director of the University of Tennessee’s veterinary social work program. Strand noticed a huge need in the veterinary environment for social work, and Tennessee was the first school in the country to create a specialty in veterinary social work. Michigan and Missouri now offer similar programs.

Veterinary social workers provide support for animal-related professionals who need an extra hand resolving stress or stubborn conflict. They can also gently guide grieving pet owners through heartbreak, or help figure out what to do when an animal is a victim of family violence.

Strand and others say that veterinary professionals are becoming more willing to talk about the mental health stresses of their work, and veterinary schools are addressing mental health and emphasizing communication skills.

To bolster resilience, students at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine participate at the teaching hospital as early as their first year, so that they’re accustomed to working with very sick animals and distraught owners. Students can also staff the school’s pet loss support hotline after special training.

The veterinary school at University of California, Davis, has one full-time counselor and one part-time counselor just for veterinary students. “As our counselor started getting busier and busier, we thought that we had a problem, and what we realized is that this was not a problem,” says Dr. Sean Owens, associate dean for admissions and student programs at Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine. “We’re actually doing a better job of destigmatizing talking to mental health professionals, meaning that our students are now more likely to drop in and say, ‘I just spent four hours grieving with a client … How do I process it?’ ”

The Davis program provides yoga, art projects, massage therapists — even a surfing club. Clinical skills labs that use actors who practice common scenarios, though awkward, can lift confidence later. The school was the second veterinary school after Colorado State University to offer a “healer’s art” course, which embraces the emotional aspects of practicing medicine.

“What has really triggered [change] has been the greater publicity of suicides of veterinary students,” says Owens. “You’re not fully complete in this profession unless you’re able to grieve and be a human.”

Kasia Galazka is a freelance science writer who has written for BuzzFeed, Psychology Today, Pitchfork and Paste. Follow her on Twitter: @supergalaxy.

Source: Caring For Sick And Dying Animals Can Cause Compassion Fatigue : Shots – Health News : NPR

Public health | AVA Conference | Adelaide

A week of quality veterinary conference is starting now!

Who is joining their professional colleagues in Adelaide this week for the Australian Veterinary Association Conference?

In particular ~ check out the Public health stream talks and topics!