Why Send Sympathy Cards? The benefits of pet-loss support

final golden retrieverSending a sympathy card embodies the unique, supportive and personal quality of veterinary care, a level of care that many work so hard to uphold. A beautiful card, personally written, shows that you care about the special relationship that your client shared with their pet, and validates your professional role within this relationship.  “Empathy is one of the top five qualities by which clients judge their service provider,”1 and the veterinary profession is no exception to this rule. The benefits of sending sympathy cards far out-way the cost and time of sending them. Receiving a written message of sympathy strengthens the client/clinic relationship during its most vulnerable period. A study undertaken in Switzerland showed that 14% of 2,008 bereaved Swiss pet owners changed practices despite being satisfied with the euthanasia2. To counter this a post-euthanasia sympathy card reminds owners of the exceptional service and care that the practice offers, increasing the likelihood of a return visit. The time taken to hand-write a card undermines the concept of a practice being a ‘business’, and reasserts the special relationship between the client/clinic as fellow pet owners and lovers.

The unwritten rule of veterinary care is that the two most important interactions clients will have with their veterinarian are their first visit and their last3. Building upon this, there is a growing consensus that care and client contact should continue beyond this point. This is particularly required to counteract the general lack of societal understanding for pet loss. Owners’ grief can often be unintentionally trivialised4; a cultural misunderstanding which can lead to enhanced loneliness during the grief process. Sending a practice sympathy card supports clients emotionally showing a deep understanding of their grief, whilst consciously validating it from a professional perspective.

Whilst many practices do send out sympathy cards there is still dramatic variation in the quality of cards available. Often clinics may pea garden 2struggle to source quality cards with appropriate designs. Speaking at the BVNA Congress last year one nurse mentioned she was “ashamed” to send out their practice cards as they were so “cheap.” Sending out a poor quality card undermines both the time spent on it, and the respect for the client/clinic relationship. A “cheap” flimsy card with a standardised message does not enhance practice perception, and sets a low standard of bereavement care. If practices pride themselves on offering the best medical care to animals, why not extend this to bereavement support? High quality, well designed cards with a personalised message show respect for the client, and the exceptional service that veterinary professionals provide.

Rachel’s Veterinary Sympathy Cards aim to combine client minded designs with practice efficiency to provide a high quality and beautiful series of sympathy cards. Working with nurse recommendations to tailor the cards to the requirements of hectic practice life, all of our sympathy cards are printed onto high quality, none-smudge card. We use FSC certified, 100% recycled paper, and offer a practice personalisation option to add practice details and logos to the reverse of the cards. All our designs are printed from original watercolours, using calming colours, floral motifs and outdoor settings to create soothing images appropriate for sending to clients.

If you would like more information about the benefits of sending sympathy cards, or about Rachel’s Veterinary Sympathy Cards, please visit our website: www.rachelsveterinarysympathycards.com

[1] Anderson K, Zemke R. Knock Your Socks Off Service. USA: Performance Research Associates, 1991

2 Fernandez-Mehler P, Gloor P, Sager E, Lewis Fl, Glaus TM: Veterinarians’ role for pet owners facing pet loss. Vet Rec 2013. DOI:10.1136/vr:101154

3 Tait J, Changing Protocols surrounding euthanasia. Can Vet J. 2003 Feb; 44(2):156

4 Hewson C, Grief for Pets. Part One. Veterinary Ireland Journal 2014, 4.8:382


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