A Call to Life aims to help veterinary caregivers increase self-efficacy, decrease unnecessary suffering, and increase sustainability in their mission to support animal health around the world. The veterinary profession is powered by dedicated, bright, and selfless individuals. Unfortunately, the long-standing and dysfunctional culture in classrooms and practices around the world expects veterinary caregivers to be ready to sacrifice everything – their time, their health, their personal lives – in the name of being deemed qualified and ‘worthy.’
Integrating real-life stories from a range of veterinary caregivers with evidence-based theory, practical activities, discussion and reflection points, and insights drawn from the author’s own experiences, the book empowers veterinarians by showing that they have the ability and the control to choose a healthier way forward for themselves and for their profession. It describes how to:
- Normalize the conversation around mental and emotional health challenges in caregiving environments
- Discuss and collaboratively create systemic solutions that promote healthier ‘ecosystems’ for vets to work within
- Develop the skills of reframing, mindfulness, and self-care strategy implementation supporting holistic veterinary well-being
- Collectively choose to shift the framework of professional conversations towards psychological safety, optimism, and purpose-driven experiences.
Creating Wellbeing and Building Resilience in the Veterinary Profession: A Call to Life uniquely combines shared experiences (personal stories) with academic research into the contributing factors of compassion fatigue and how to counter these. Normalizing the conversation in the profession, it provides a wide array of possible solutions to build resilience and to shape a culture of collaboration and support where caregivers can flourish.
Table of Contents
1 The evolution of the veterinary profession: How did we get here?
2 Caregiver Concerns
3 Being part of a compassionate caregiving community - for better or for worse! Examination of our Veterinary Professional Challenges
4 Tailoring your individual toolbox for self-care and resilience development
5 Change is in the Wind – A New Framework
6 Get excited and inspired! The Veterinary Profession of the Future.
Dr. Sonja Olson grew up with her human and animal family members mostly in Maryland, but every summer included time with family in Wisconsin as well. She graduated from Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine with a focus on exotic animal medicine. Her professional path led to over 25 years of practicing clinical small animal and exotic emergency medicine in both private and corporate practice environments. The myriad of opportunities to teach, mentor, and lead that arose during these years were deeply fulfilling but there was also an increased awareness of the far-reaching need for veterinary well-being awareness and skills. This combination fostered Sonja’s passion to better understand, and then support, the holistic health of the veterinary caregivers. She is now focusing her energy on being a health & well-being trainer for veterinary associates through her current work role, podcasts, writing, and collaborative efforts with other like-minded souls. Creating awareness, heightening knowledge, and building compassionate communities will serve as the foundation for a thriving future veterinary profession. Re-energizing for herself comes from enjoying play time with her husband and furry kids, dark chocolate, yoga, running, and deepening her vipassana meditation practices.
Sonja Olson, an experienced Emergency Clinician, veterinary mentor, and health and wellbeing trainer of veterinary teams, shares her wisdom, her breadth of experience and knowledge on the topic on wellbeing and resilience in this book. She also brings to life the voices of her colleagues across the globe. By doing so, she normalises conversations around vulnerability and mental health. Sonja "talks the talk" and "walks the walk" and without ego, will show how you too, can have a long and fulfilling professional life and keep a personal life too. This book brings to the reader both knowledge and experience that is useful to those studying and practicing in the veterinary profession. This will be a valuable addition to veterinarians, veterinary technicians, veterinary nurses and veterinary paraprofessionals.
Dr Vanessa Rohlf, BA(Hons), MCouns&PsychTh, PhD, Counsellor, Psychotherapist, and Research Fellow
This is a great book for the vet community. It’s chock full of models, resources, questions, practices and personal anecdotes from those on the front lines. We all want to feel seen and heard, that someone understands us, and Sonja does a great job with that, normalizing the experience of the reader. I especially appreciated the understanding and compassion for what clients are experiencing, which might also help for us to understand why they sometimes say and do the things they do. Part textbook, part self-help, this is the ideal book for any veterinary professional.
Julie Squires, Certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist and Certified Life Coach, Rekindle, LLC
Dr. Sonja Olson’s passion is helping veterinarians thrive, and she is at the forefront of a grassroots movement to improve the well-being of both individual practitioners and the profession. A Call To Life takes a much-needed, comprehensive look at the unspoken codes and culture of veterinary education and practice. Using humor and compassion, Dr. Olson charts a path forward to new era of veterinary practice, one where veterinarians can flourish both at work and at home. This book is essential reading for every practitioner and student.
Karen R. Fine, DVM, Author, Narrative Medicine in Veterinary Practice, October 2021
This book makes some big - and sometimes hard to hear - points without lecturing: instead, it feels like having a heartfelt, non-judgmental conversation. It recognizes that while a good deal of the onus is on us to change our perspective, there are outside forces beyond our control (forces identified and addressed with as much care and importance). Reading this book is an emotional rollercoaster, but it ends on an optimistic and positive note without being stifling or overwhelming. A Call to Life is something we need early on in vet school: it would have changed my experience so much.
Veterinary Surgeon and Veterinary Rehabilitation Practitioner, BVM&S, MRCVS, Arizona, USA
Meeting Sonja and reading Creating Well-being and Building Resilience in the Veterinary Profession: A Call to Life is a life-changer for me. Just when I thought I knew it all, Sonja entered my world and taught me more, much much more. She deep dives into what makes us tick as vet pros, naming to tame the occupational hazards we encounter through all walks of vet life, our complex challenges as an industry, and what toolboxes are available for an individual approach to building personal optimal well-being. For me, it is like having a personal care Merck Veterinary Manual at my fingertips for help with daily diagnosis, therapies to consider, further readings, and continued success to remain a healer in the profession I love. I would recommend it to everyone in the profession to pop on your self-help shelf. A really lovely and personal read, with so much input from so many in the profession who are doing great work for change, from someone with so much heartfelt aroha. Well done Sonja!
Megan Alderson, BVSc, Veterinary Professional Wellbeing Advocate, vetThrive, The Strand Veterinarian in Parnell, Auckland, New Zealand