Atlantic Veterinary College launches social work support pilot project for clients and staff
In the hearts of many animal owners, pets are cherished members of the family. Recognizing this bond, the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) is providing complimentary short-term emotional support to assist clients in navigating difficult situations concerning their pets’ health.
Sapphire MacPhee, a registered social worker, is the wellness facilitator at the AVC. Starting in early January, she has been stationed at the hospital as part of a pilot project to help clients cope with difficult decisions such as complex treatment options, end-of-life care, or financial constraints. The goal of the project is to enhance mental health support for both clients and the veterinary community at the AVC.
“Clients sometimes receive emotionally challenging news about their pets,” said MacPhee. “I’m here to provide support, helping them navigate through their options and emotions. I can also help connect them to resources or external support as needed.”
MacPhee has been the AVC wellness facilitator since 2017, offering support and resources to students, faculty, and staff. The AVC saw a need for her extensive experience in the hospital. This project integrates mental health support into the veterinary care experience; it is a welcome addition to the clinicians who are often the ones delivering difficult news to clients.
"Every veterinarian knows that there are two hearts in a veterinary clinic exam room: one at each end of the leash,” said Dr. Etienne Côté, professor of cardiology at AVC, who presented the need to the AVC administration. “We are so fortunate to have a social worker who can help us as veterinarians and veterinary students to help families through difficult times."
While client support is new to the AVC, MacPhee’s regular presence in the hospital is also beneficial to the staff and students. Emotional situations are common in the veterinary profession, and being on site in the hospital means she is able to provide a high degree of support when it is needed the most.
“The staff and students are also faced with emotional situations, which can be very difficult for them,” MacPhee said. “Compassion fatigue is a serious concern within the veterinary profession. Being in the hospital, I’m available to give them a high degree of support when they need it most.”
The pilot project will run for six months, concluding in June. During this period, MacPhee will be available to clients and staff in the hospital Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to noon.
Existing clients who are interested in learning more about the project can call 902-566-6788.