The Deathly Hallows are some of the most legendary magical items in the Harry Potter world. These powerful objects were foretold to make someone the “Master of Death” by obtaining all three. This made me wonder… if Veterinary Deathly Hallows exist, could we harness their power to become a “Vet Med Master of Death” without falling victim to the dangers associated with the misuse of each one?  

(((WARNING: This discussion may be a trigger for some people. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.)))

Veterinary medicine has many uplifting moments, but this profession also involves a lot of death. It just does. The vast majority of our patients have short lifespans. Some of the diseases we battle conclude with the premature loss of the patient. If we want to thrive in this career, we must learn how to manage the death of our patients. Let’s discuss how we can be like Harry and discover the magical powers in the three Veterinary Deathly Hallows while avoiding the perils of each one.

1. The Invisibility Cloak – Coping Techniques

The Invisibility Cloak allows a wizard to hide from death. In vet med, our invisibility cloaks are the coping mechanisms we use after the loss of a patient. Everyone’s invisibility cloak is different. Some are much more effective, whereas others are more likely to get us into trouble.

Harry certainly found himself in danger multiple times while using the Invisibility Cloak. In vet med, some coping mechanisms may be able to provide temporary peace, but these techniques can also be very dangerous if abused. Even people like me who find comfort at the bottom of a carton of ice cream will find that coping mechanism to be less than productive when depended upon too frequently. (Let’s just say that it wasn’t my cloak that split a seam at work after one too many servings of cookies and cream!) In order to harness the power of our Vet Med Invisibility Cloak, we must find coping mechanisms that protect us from the dark emotions of losing a patient without unintentionally leading us into a dangerous area where we could be left unprotected when emerging from our cloak.  

Dumbledore tells Harry that the real power of the Invisibility Cloak is to hide others from death as well. That’s also the magic of this Veterinary Deathly Hallow. Does your coping mechanism help you protect others from the negative emotions of loss? Maybe you could invite a friend to join you for a morning jog or yoga class. You could discuss a therapeutically entertaining movie/tv show/book with your colleagues who may also enjoy it. After stress-baking a bunch of cookies, you could bring them to work to share with your colleagues needing a pick-me-up. Or, you could share the enlightening social media post you read that you think could help others. The true masters of the Invisibility Cloak bring someone else along to save them, too.

2. The Resurrection Stone – Mementos of Deceased Patients

The Resurrection Stone grants the power to recall a shadow of someone who has died. In vet med, we often provide clients with a memento of their beloved pet who has passed in the form of a paw print or lock of hair. Sometimes we even save mementos for ourselves, which could range from just a simple photo to meaningful tokens of gratitude from thankful pet owners. When used effectively, the memories of those animals who have touched our hearts can inspire us to strive to be better for future patients.

However, just like the Resurrection Stone, these mementos can be dangerous when used inappropriately. Dwelling on these memories to obsess over a former patient can make us lose focus – just like Professor Dumbledore did when he encountered the Resurrection Stone in the form of the horcrux ring. His tunnel vision led to a lethal curse. Similarly, the sadness of a patient we have lost can spiral us to a dark place that doesn’t allow us to care for all our other patients.

In order to conquer the power of the Vet Med Resurrection Stone, we must focus on the constructive aspects of recalling lost patients. Harry Potter used the memories of his lost loved ones to help him battle Voldemort in a time of need. Veterinary professionals can use our mementos to recall the satisfaction of helping beloved patients who have crossed the rainbow bridge, and then we can use those powerful memories to find the strength to continue to battle the dark magic of vet med.

3. The Elder Wand – Euthanasia Drugs 

The Elder Wand is the Deathly Hallow that allows a wizard to cast powerful spells and was often used to perform the killing curse. In vet med, we are granted a similar power to end life with medications used for euthanasia. Many veterinary muggles do not appreciate how fulfilling this aspect of veterinary medicine can be when the Vet Med Elder Wand is used gracefully. When a veterinary wizard understands the science and art of using these powerful drugs, this deathly hallow can provide a magically peaceful end to a patient’s suffering.  

However, just like the Elder Wand, euthanasia drugs can be very dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands. In a profession plagued with mental health issues, this Deathly Hallow could be used by a suicidal person. Are you doing enough protecting your team from the dangers of this Veterinary Deathly Hallow?

Each practice needs to discover what individualized methods work best to both utilize the Veterinary Elder Wand, as well as determining how to protect yourself and your team from it. One proposal to protect our colleagues is the #4eyessavelives initiative proposed by Dr. Andy Roark and his team, which you can read more about here.

By no means is protecting our team from the dangers of the Vet Med Elder Wand the only thing we should be doing to conquer the dark magic of suicide in veterinary medicine. But, why not make this part of our practice’s multi-modal approach to help safeguard someone who is overcome by dark thoughts? I think in order to be a true master of the Vet Med Elder Wand, we must both utilize the power of euthanasia drugs to graciously end patient suffering while also controlling access to protect ourselves and others from the dangers of misuse.

All three of the Vet Med Deathly Hallows are powerful yet dangerous. Please take precautions around these sacred artifacts to keep yourself safe as you utilize their magic. By learning how to harness the positive powers of the Vet Med Deathly Hallows and protect ourselves from their dangers, we can discover the magic to overcome loss in veterinary medicine and become a “Master of Death” just like Harry Potter.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Michael W. Miller, DVM is a part-owner of a four-hospital practice and splits time between Lakewood Animal Hospital and Pine Bluff Animal Hospital in Morris, Illinois. He has a special interest in exotic animal medicine – especially reptiles, but he also enjoys working on dogs and cats including his mischievous shelter mutt named Wombat. He also started a blog called Harry Potter Vet that uses comparisons to the wizarding world to discover the magic in veterinary medicine.


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