Volunteering Kicked Burnout in the Butt

Post by

Nicole Bates

May 30th 2020

It sounds a bit cheesy, doesn't it? I know, but that's where I was at, before going to volunteer alongside the Mission Rabies field teams in 2019.

Early last year, I was fostering a very poorly young puppy with numerous health issues. On top of that, I was working in two practices in the UK as a Head Nurse and registered veterinary nurse (RVN). It engulfed my life. When we lost the puppy in July that year, my world shattered. Despite spending months telling myself, this was coming, I felt numb. I was waking up each day and going to work in autopilot. My love for being a veterinary nurse felt like it had been diminished overnight. As veterinary nurses, we are here to help make the poorly one's lives better and I honestly, I felt like I'd failed as a nurse and foster mum. Looking back on it now, I was grieving and massively burnt out. Like many of us in the profession, the long hours and emotional rollercoasters to follow had taken its toll on me. 

Leaving the UK, I felt so relieved to be escaping 'reality' of general practice. And if I am completely honest, I wasn't sure I would ever return to that part of my life. I had even started to look for jobs in other sectors to consider on my return home (sorry if my boss is reading this!).

I set off to India alongside a previous colleague and amazing friend, Claire, and together we jumped headfirst into the Mission Rabies project. My time there not only reignited my love of veterinary work, but really opened my eyes to be so grateful for everything I had. Somehow, I'd fallen under the spell of burnout and I'd lost sight of all the positive things I had in my life. This experience helped me kick burnout - and all its negative side effects - IN THE BUTT!

Whilst I was there, our working team (called the Tigers!) certainly had its fair shares of dramas.  Even on our first day, our team leaders rescued a dog that had fallen down a well. The bravery and determination of the whole team blew my mind. Other days, I triaged dogs with serious injuries by myself and my team members would transport them to local clinics for treatment. We helped puppies with maggot wounds, dogs who'd been hit by cars and we even rescued a dog who'd got her head caught in football goal netting. Even in such crazy situations, the team never faltered. At the end of the day, if there was no room left at the shelters, the team would take these dogs back to their own homes. Their kindness and resilience toward helping these communities was so admirable.

I can't thank Mission Rabies and all the local staff enough for this experience. It has helped me develop in my personal life and even more so, in my nursing career.

To find out how you can volunteer with Mission Rabies, click here.