Did you know that I am an Oxymoron? So here is the secret about myself… I am actually very scared of needles. YUP a Doctor who works with needles everyday actually has a phobia of needles and anything medical, when it is done to me that is. You may think Veterinary Medicine is a strange profession for someone who has a medical phobia but in fact I actually think I have an advantage! Because of my “medical Handicap” I understand and have empathy for the dogs who hide under our exam room chairs and the cats who would prefer not to see me.
The world of medicine is changing. When I went to the hospital as a 6 year old, the hospital was so scary and to make things worse my mom was not allowed to stay with me. I still remember the nurse who threatened to spank me because I was afraid of a needle. Can you imagine? Do you think the threat of hitting a child made me less afraid? Nope the negative experience just added to my phobia and perhaps I would have less fear now if that very first experience had been associated with empathy and kindness.
Winston and I volunteer in the pediatrics ward at the Abbotsford Region Hospital. Today some children are still afraid of course, but now mom and dad get to stay with them at all times. Oh what I would have had to have my mom next to me. They have games and distractions – like Winston visits. And the nurses! Well I see them taking time with the kids. One male nurse had a water fight using 3cc syringe with a little girl – and there she was hooked up to an IV line giggling as she attempted to shoot him with water.
Well I feel the same way about our animal patients. I love it when the dog pulls their owner into the exam room. There is Rosco who is so excited that he will not stop barking the entire time he is in the room. I now have to do his exam, while getting wacked by his tail, then send him out to the car just to be able to speak to his owner. And then there is Ronnie whose mom’s emergency recall phrase is “Let’s go see Dr. Shelley” and Miss Ronnie stops, turns and sprints back to mom. Winston’s emergency recall phrase by the way is “treats” of course!! I have posted videos of Abby doing sprints around the waiting room as soon as I come out to see her.
Despite these successes I also have many pets, especially cats, who are a little less than thrilled to see me. I have been working hard with my team at the Fraser Valley Animal Hospital to try and change this. To find ways to help those that are already scared to see the doctor – just like me – and to do things so that those who are new to the hospital have a good experience and that they don’t develop a phobia. This is so important to me that we are building a new hospital and looking at everything from sound, colour, lighting to how slippery the floor is. We are building the hospital with all specifications to make it truly pet friendly. But I know a building is not enough to make a hospital visit Fear Free the truly important part is the interactions with your pets. I have obviously always loved animals and have always stressed the handling and well being of our patients to be gentle and caring but I also believe we can always learn and always strive to do things better. So back to school
I went to be certified in the Fear Free Program. And as this is so important that the entire FVAH has been spending our monthly staff meetings learning the Fear Free handling techniques of Dr. Marty Becker and the Stress Free handling techniques of the late Dr. Sophia Yin. But to be truly Fear Free we also need the help of mom and /or dad as the Fear Free program needs to start at home. If a pet is afraid of the carrier, or the ride into the hospital, then we have little hope of making the situation better. If you would like to help your pet and join the Fear Free movement then check out A Fear Free Trip To The Vet and learn what you can do to take the pet out of petrified as Dr. Marty Becker says!