Career Spotlight of the Month (September 2019)
Name: Adriane Gurtner, RVT, BSc.
Current Job: RVT at Mount Albert Veterinary Hospital; published author and award winning artist
Q & A with Adriane
OAVT: Where did you go to school, and what made you decide to take a Veterinary Technology program?
Adriane: I graduated with full Honours from Seneca College in 2007.
In 2000, I started working as an Animal Care Attendant at the Veterinary Emergency Clinic; North and South. Since the age of 9 I had always wanted to be a Veterinarian. I had never heard of RVTs until I went to work there. I was inspired and knew my love and compassion for animals was my passion and purpose in life.
I applied to Seneca and it was so exciting to be accepted. I had my two very young daughters at the time and we had to plan a lot of things in order to make this dream come true.
OAVT: You currently work in a small animal practice just north of Toronto, but you spent quite a bit of time rescuing cats and dogs in Northwestern Ontario, and you were instrumental in setting up “Kitty Kare” Cat Rescue in Thunder Bay. How did your work in the north come to be?
Adriane: Our family was transferred to Thunder Bay right after I graduated from Seneca College in 2007 because of my husband’s career. I realized very soon the devastating situation and plight of so many animals running at large; hurt, malnourished, homeless and etc. I tried with a friend of mine to implement a Rabies Clinic and nutritional care . We tried to promote the importance of vaccines and parasite control and prevention; especially concerning the zoonotic diseases and the many children running around. The dog bites and potential for rabies.
OAVT: You have worked in emergency medicine, been a shelter volunteer, and even have large animal experience. What do you love about your current job?
Adriane: I love the surroundings, we are in the country. The people I work with are wonderful, as are the clients.
OAVT: You’re also an award winning artist. Tell us about Adriane’s Adventures in Art Therapy.
Adriane: A Veterinarian once told me, "Adriane, we can’t save them all.” I replied “yes, however we must try.” I am an empathetic person and I have a lot of compassion for all living creatures. When animals are euthanized because of monetary means; it really upsets me. I try to be a voice for the animals.
Adriane’s Adventures in Art Therapy evolved from a family tragedy. My identical twin sister, Diana, suddenly died in her sleep from a gran mal seizure.
We were mono mono, one egg, mirror image twins. Our lives were totally blindsided and changed forever.
I went back to work the day after her funeral and continued to work in a daze and fog for the next seven months. I was a complete mess, needless to say.
I was hospitalized for three weeks. While there, I began painting my feelings as I could not express the inner devastation inside of me. The doctors didn’t really know about twins and complicated grief. They were wonderful and helped me, however I needed bereavement counselling.
The artwork and painting brought immense comfort and relief as the grief was so intense and exhausting.
I was asked to do a show and we sold 90 pieces of artwork. I gifted a lot of artwork to the hospital as well as people suffering from grief. I was not ready to go back to work, so I kept painting.
Painting, writing and creating are all wonderful stress relievers.
As RVTs we work in a very demanding profession - both emotional and physical.
It is a wonderful outlet to find something you are passionate about and can work on in your down time. Self care is very important, as well as creating a healthy balance between work and life outside of work.
OAVT: What advice would you give to other RVTs who are looking to find a creative outlet?
Adriane: My advice to other RVTs who are looking for ways to express themselves is, just do it! Start somewhere. There is an artist, poet, writer in all of us. They just took the crayons away too soon when we were younger and stifled the creativity within.
OAVT: Other RVTs may be experiencing grief right now. They can CLICK HERE to read the article you wrote on coping with grief in the workplace. But in short, what can you share about your experience with grief?
Adriane: The journey of grief is different for everyone. We all have different “timelines “ and journeys at different stages.
I have had many losses in my life, however; this loss was catastrophic for me. Walking back into work was frightening, I wasn’t the same person. I was in shock, numb in disbelief.
What I would like to share with other RVTs going through grief is:
Grief is Exhausting.
Self Care is so important. Drink a lot of water and eat good nutritional food.
Talk to HR, change your responsibilities for awhile and make sure you have an open door there.
Be mindful of Triggers. Keep open communication with your supervisors and ask for the help you need.
Have a safe place to go in the hospital if you are having a “Grief Attack”.
Talk. Talk about your loved one. Remove the elephant in the room and try to ease tension. People are afraid and sometimes they don’t know what to say in order to not upset you.
Seek help! Professional help - a bereavement counsellor , a Doctor or Clergy.
Join a group - I joined Twinless Twins.
Don’t stuff your feelings, they will only come back stronger.
Try to have a buddy system for when things become overwhelming and you need a time out.
Be empathetic, compassionate and loving. A grieving person is going through enough without having to deal with a toxic work environment.
What I have learned from grief is that life will never be the same again. I had to adjust to the “new normal." Grief is an exhausting roller coaster ride and sucks the life out of you. They say to people “you will only understand when it happens to you.“ Life goes on for other people as you stand frozen in a haze of loss. Grief brought me to my knees out of a darkness, awakened me and showed me that Miracles can shine through the cracks and open pieces of a totally shattered heart and life.
Even in death, there are many silver linings. May you find yours.
OAVT: RVTs are passionate people, and every RVT has an area they are most passionate about. What is your passion?
Adriane: My passion as an RVT is Emergency Medicine. I love the energy, pace and the fact that you never know what is going to come in. Everyday is different and you learn and get to see so much. Emergency Medicine led me to applying to the veterinary technology program.