For doctors, having a dog around could be a great way to combat burnout.
Dogs are known to reduce anxiety and stress and ease depression - all major contributors to burnout. Not only is petting them therapeutically beneficial, but they provide companionship, ease loneliness, and give their owners a reason to get out and exercise.
On August 26th, International Dog Day, we wanted to meet the dogs of some of our doctors and find out just how they contribute to mental health and wellbeing.
Meet Dr Li Lian Tnew’s heartwarming purebred Golden Retriever, Coco
“Getting a dog was one of the best decisions I've made in my life. Having Coco in my life has made me a happier person in general - the goofy things she does makes me laugh and her smiles whenever I arrive home warms my heart. My husband and I often work at different times of the day and Coco has been great in providing company when one of us is not around. There have been so many times where my dog has lifted my mood whenever I'm stressed or down and hence I believe that having a dog has improved my mental wellness in general. Also, I've noticed that I'm physically fitter now too as I have to take her for a walk daily! “
Meet Dr Elaine Stringer's two precious friends Finn and Georgie
“These two have utterly changed our lives – whether we liked it or not!
Finn the elder: dopey but loveable. He wrote the book on how to take life easy, worry about nothing. So relaxed he still hasn’t worked out what his legs are actually for since lying down is by far the best option. Eat, sleep, lie in the sun – life’s good! Georgie the younger – exactly the opposite. Sharp brain ( is there Mensa for dogs ?), enough energy to power the national grid, enthusiasm unmeasurable, sociable – instant friends with everyone, dogs and people, whether they like it or not!
They both bring so much happiness into our lives, and we enjoy every special moment”
Meet Dr Hetty Jenkins’s fun-loving; Ruairidh
'Ru is a motivator to get out and get going - both on long adventures and daily familiar walks. He is a companion in the evenings and always ready to remind us to not take things too seriously. Ru keeps life simple; food, fun, exercise, and good company. I think that's a good recipe to follow to keep happy and well.”
Dr Rachel Goldspink’s, therapeutic Labradoodle; Violet.
“Medicine is a tough job. Psychiatry is a particularly hard job. Being the husband of a psychiatrist is also a hard job according to my other half. The average day for a psychiatrist has no average. That is part of what I love about it…but it can also mean that over a day you are exposed to an array of emotions and situations that can take a toll on your emotional well-being. You need to be aware of the impact that takes on your mental health and, by default, the wellbeing of your loved ones.
Getting Violet the labradoodle is part of self-care. We got her as a tiny bundle of fluff and now 10 months later she is a 25kg giant. We recognise we have been sold a small pony in a dog outfit. This is good as I can’t afford to buy my 6-year-old the unicorn she desperately wants. She apparently has more growing to do. We ignore this fact. There is a genuine risk that she may smother me in my sleep one day but it would come from a place of love!
Whilst the first 3 months were hard it made my husband feel smug that he had been right when he said “2 kids is enough''. Waking up every 3 hours for the poo run was brutal, particularly when I stood in one in flip flops whilst trying to navigate the garden using Iphone light.
Violet is the nicest creature I know and puts humans to shame. No one has ever been this pleased to see me. Even if I just go to the toilet she reacts when I return as if I have been away forever. We have to enter the house after school/ work with precision to prevent the “happy wee”. None of us are allowed to make eye contact with her until the back door is open then she prances like a dressage horse until all of us have greeted her separately. We call her j-lo because of her giant derriere/ tail combination that will knock things off shelves.
She gets us out even on a rainy day and has taught the kids responsibility. She also likes being vacuumed with a miniature hoover so we have to lock her outside when cleaning.
Getting a dog was one of the best decisions we made as a family. No matter the stress of a workday she can lower the blood pressure and give some perspective to things. She has collected an array of nicknames in the short time we have had her including; Vi-Vi (needs to be said with a French accent), Woofingtons, and the Woofmeister General. The kids call her these in the park and I don’t care!
In the words of an internet meme “be more like a dog”.
Meet Dr Shobna Renee's favourite companion; Osiris
“This is Osiris. He's my favourite thing in the whole world. We road-trip up and down the country together, go to Bunnings way too often and when we're lucky, he joins me at work as a therapy dog/doctor's companion. But most of the time he hangs out at whatever accommodation we've been set up in, waiting patiently for me to finish work so we can go exploring together. Locuming can be a lonely and isolating job but having him around makes me feel like I have a little piece of home with me wherever I am. No idea what I'd do without him. He really is the best boy.”
Dr Mairi Fullarton’s two adventurous Retrodoodles; Lochie and Kurī
“These are my two retro doodles Lochie and Kurī out hiking in the Crown Range. Whilst it can be difficult to balance a surgical lifestyle and having a dog, there is lots of evidence to show dogs are great at reducing stress levels and even increase your life expectancy. There’s no doubt in my mind that my dogs are hugely beneficial for my physical and mental wellbeing and I’m never happier than when out running or tramping with these two - we’ve climbed three summits in the last week together. Although I would highly recommend having a dog, it’s important to research which breed is right for you. Make sure you’re getting your puppy from a responsible breeder (or rescue) and remember having a dog is a big-time commitment. Working as a locum registrar with Medrecruit this year has allowed me the flexibility and time to look after our second puppy, Kurī, which has been amazing. Happy National Dog Day!”
Meet Dr Sam Hazledine’s love bug; Ernie
“Ernie is a love bug. He wants to spend all his time as close to those he loves as possible. When my daughters were little they would grab him by the canines and shake him; Ernie just looked at them fondly. Ernie soothes me because he’s so present and loves without any conditions. I just love him.”
Meet Sophie Steenberg (Medrecruit Solution Specialist) fun-loving dog; Beau
“I had wanted a dog since I can remember so as soon as I was settled here it was one of my goals and is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Beau keeps me active, he makes me smile every single day and on the days where I just want to stay in bed, he makes me get up for a walk and I feel so much better for it! Dogs require a lot of time and attention but if you have the dedication and love to give them you will get it back from them tenfold. There are so many dogs needing a good home at the moment, the rescue charities are swamped so if you are able to then please consider adopting, or even fostering, a rescue dog.”
Research suggests that petting your dog after a long shift lowers the stress hormone cortisol, and then playing with your dog increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin.
Today we wanted to pay homage to our furry friends and all the love and companionship they provide, they are our best friends, our therapists, and our personal trainers.
We are grateful for the role they play in helping our doctors alleviate stress and combat burnout.