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Social Worker Helps Veterinarians Battle Burnout

Licensed Clinical Social Worker Helen Beaman likes to help people help themselves.

Recognizing the need for those from many professions to make sense of sometimes stressful or chaotic work, she has reached out to first responders, veterinary clinics and others to volunteer her expertise to help people cope with the challenges of their jobs.

“Community outreach is a cornerstone of what clinical social workers do,” said Beaman. “It is kind of an unspoken promise that we will always be contributing to our community and the betterment of society. I know how much information and education empowers people and helps them feel they can be their own advocates to improve their lives.”

A powerful example of Beaman’s outreach is sessions for veterinarians and staff at Grove Veterinary Clinic in Newport.

Beaman worked with Charles Hurty, DVM, medical director of Grove Veterinary Clinic and vice president of the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, to develop cognitive behavioral therapy classes and monthly check-ins. The sessions address mental health concerns related to caring for sick, injured and dying pets, including suicide risk. One in six veterinarians has contemplated suicide at some point in their careers.

“My veterinary team is not immune from these challenges,” said Dr. Hurty. “We decided as a group that we did not want to have this experience anymore and that changes were needed.”

Beaman’s work with the veterinary clinic and other groups includes providing perspective and validation for experiences and emotions, helping people understand what is going on in their minds and bodies and giving them vocabulary and tools to work towards a healthier experience. Beaman feels it is important for professionals to be transparent with others and themselves about their challenges.

“The response was more than I could have ever expected or hoped for,” said Dr. Hurty. “People’s thoughts and feelings were validated. Helen has helped us understand our experiences and emotions and has driven us to be a healthier and happier team that can now thrive and innovate.”

Beaman finds this work nourishing.

“I think people forget how inspiring that kind of work can be,” Beaman said. “It gives back to me; it can be very rewarding. This is self-care.”

Helen Beaman, LCSW, cares for patients of Samaritan’s primary care clinics in Lincoln County.