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BluePearl,UT collaborate on field learning for veterinary social workers

Students in the Postgraduate Veterinary Social Work Certificate Program to gain real-world training

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BluePearl and the University of Tennessee (UT) College of Veterinary Medicine are partnering up to train social workers for careers in specialty and emergency veterinary medicine.

As part of UT’s Postgraduate Veterinary Social Work Certificate Program (VSWCP), students will gain hands-on experience in veterinary hospitals across the U.S., with a focus on four key areas:

  • the link between human and animal violence;
  • animal-related grief and bereavement;
  • animal-assisted interactions; and
  • compassion fatigue and conflict management.

Students must complete a keystone project requiring at least 250 hours of field learning. The collaboration makes BluePearl the first private practice in the country to offer field placements for students enrolled in this program.

“This exciting collaboration serves two functions,” explains Lori C. Harbert, LCSW program manager, veterinary social work at BluePearl. “Students will benefit from having access to advanced training, working closely with veterinarians and clients in a large, 24/7 specialty and emergency pet hospital, and BluePearl associates will benefit by having some level of in-house support and wellness training.

“Bringing in these students doesn’t solve all the industry’s problems, but it certainly says to BluePearl staff that we care about you, and says to the veterinary social work community that you matter, you have a place, and you can come here and we’ll help be a part of your training.”

The focus on compassion fatigue and conflict management is in response to the high suicide rates among veterinarians. Students will be taught to turn their knowledge into action through building relationships. In addition, they will receive evidence-based trainings on issues such as coping with euthanasia, as well as grief and loss.

“Every day, veterinarians and technicians endure a tremendous amount of stress and face ethical dilemmas sourcing from managing adverse events, interacting with clients, working in teams, and work-life balance,” says Elizabeth Strand, PhD, LCSW, founding director of veterinary social work at the UT College of Veterinary Medicine.

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“Students in the program undergo an unparalleled level of training, and are able to support both pet owners and veterinarians in a clinical setting. We are proud to partner with BluePearl, who now plays a key role in allowing its hospitals to be a training ground for our students.”

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