When I first learned about veterinary hospice and realized it was the field that I wanted to devote my life to, I knew that it was a new and emerging area of medicine, but I had no idea of how new. As I researched, studied, and spoke to other doctors in the field, I came to realize that I had become part of something that was still in the process of defining itself – that we were all building an area of study together – and that I was incredibly lucky to be part of such an endeavor.
Part of what I love about hospice medicine is just how collaborative it is at the professional level. I love my clients and my patients, that goes without saying. But I also love conferences that are equal parts give and take, where attendees are invited to share their experiences and practices in the hopes of improving the field overall, where everyone is learning and growing and practicing, and where the fact that we have so much room to explore, improve, and educate is celebrated.
To that end, the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care has just this year put together a certification program in Veterinary Hospice and Palliative Care. For the first time, there will be a set of standards determined for those of us who practice hospice medicine – guidelines of what resources we should have, what skills and facets of medicine we need to be trained in, what are the best ways to provide for the comfort of our patients and the well-being of the people who care for them. It will focus on providing a team of support for clients and patients, on communication as well as technical skill, on end-of-life care, and on pain management. It draws from human hospice and prioritizes educating caregivers and practicing cooperative medicine The program will take over a year, and those of us who complete it will have the honor of becoming Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarians.
In particular, those of us enrolled in this year’s program will be the first-ever CHPVs. And I have been lucky enough to be accepted into this first class.
I have no words for how honored and grateful and excited I am to be part of this. It’s an amazing feeling to know that I am helping define an entire area of medicine for future veterinarians; that I am helping build something that will bring comfort to so many people and pets as the field continues to grow and gain recognition. I’m looking forward to learning from amazing instructors who are pioneers in the practice, and to writing my own case studies. And most of all, I’m glad beyond words at the opportunity to learn how to take even better care of the pets and people who trust me with their emotional and physical well-being at this most vulnerable and critical stage of life.
A common adage about medicine is that it’s called a practice because we’re never done learning and bettering ourselves, and I can’t wait to take this next step forward on my path as a doctor and caretaker!