The job of veterinarians and other animal welfare workers is one that requires a high level of engagement, sensitivity, and compassion. Often, the worker is faced with making life and death decisions regarding animals in their care or have to make decisions about which animals to save from high kill shelters---knowing that animals they leave behind are likely to be euthanized. At other times, staff have to advise pet parents around end of life care for their animals, or deliver news to pet parents that their beloved animal is beyond medical intervention. They also deal with pet parents who can no longer care for their animals and make the terribly difficult decision to relinquish them.
These forces often result in workers experiencing compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, moral injury, and burnout. This can reduce staff engagement, decrease job satisfaction, and increase staff turnover---costing animal welfare organizations substantial dollars in recruiting and training new staff. Franklin's Family seeks to provide animal welfare workers with monthly contact with a trained coach who will listen to their experiences, provide validation, and offer the animal welfare organization with recommendations for making systemic changes to support their staff.
Through our VALOR program (Violence and Loss Organizational Response), The Wingspan Project has been providing coaching services to staff working in hospitals, child welfare organizations, schools, and social service agencies. Like their animal welfare “cousins,” staff from these agencies also deal with people in extraordinarily difficult and traumatic circumstances. Their work also results in compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, moral injury, and burnout. Wingspan is uniquely positioned to take this model of coaching to the staff at animal welfare organizations.