Social Workers Support Families in the Ohio State Veterinary Medical Center

Joelle Nielsen

Pets are an important part of our families and the serious illness or death of a pet can be devastating. At The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center, a trained social worker helps support families through difficult times. The month of March celebrates the contributions of social workers in society, and the College of Veterinary Medicine recognizes their important work and our collaborations through the Honoring the Bond program.

Joelle Nielsen, veterinary social worker, coordinates the Honoring the Bond program, working with veterinary faculty, staff, students, and most importantly the clients served by the experts in the Veterinary Medical Center.

"I first learned about the program when I contacted social worker Dr. Jennifer Brandt, after I learned that my beloved cat Kino was gravely ill," said Joelle. "She helped found the Honoring the Bond program at Ohio State, and provided compassionate support as well as beneficial information to me when I was making end-of-life decisions. I was so grateful to have her assistance and now am proud to have the opportunity to help others in similar situations." 

The Honoring the Bond program in the Veterinary Medical Center was one of the first programs in the nation to include a licensed social worker on the veterinary health care team, offering support services to pet owners.

Some of the free services offered include:

  • Providing immediate, in-person or telephone emotional support and crisis intervention to pet owners;
  • Being present with or for companion animal owners during the delivery of “bad” news (terminal illness, unexpected diagnosis) and euthanasia procedures, and supporting and educating owners as they make difficult decisions regarding the healthcare of their pets (treatment, euthanasia, surgery, etc.);
  • Acting as a liaison between the companion animal owner and veterinary health care team members;
  • Providing needs assessment and referral for companion animal owners who require more in-depth assistance (long-term therapy, crisis intervention, etc.)
  • Answering inquiries that are sent via email; and
  • The Companion Animal Listening Line (C.A.L.L).  The CALL is a nationally recognized and utilized hotline service answered by veterinary or social work student volunteers who have been trained to support and educate pet owners.

Social work has a rich history of bringing people together to support families and individuals in need.  We are proud or our collaborations between the College of Social Work (CSW) and the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and the contributions of social workers to our college and Veterinary Medical Center, veterinary profession, and society.

Remembrance Ceremony
At the 2nd Annual Companion Animal Remembrance Ceremony, owners hung hearts on a tree,
in memory of their companion animals. Here, Joelle offers support to one of the owners.

For more information about our Honoring the Bond program, please visit http://vet.osu.edu/vmc/pet-owner-support-and-counseling