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Survival mode: practicing veterinary medicine during a pandemic
COVID-19 has tested our skills and forced veterinary practice owners, associates and teams out of our comfort zones in many ways. It has also taught us some important lessons along the way.
Disaster preparedness and global crises are not things we broach on a daily basis in veterinary medicine. That all changed when COVID-19 arrived. Creating and communicating new safety protocols and cleaning regimens in our practice became priorities.
Switching to curbside service was daunting and exciting at the same time. We all know how exhausting face-to-face client communication can sometimes be, but it wasn’t long before we realized that phone communication (not to mention the ever-annoying phone tag game) can be equally challenging. Many veterinarians were forced to transition their practices into emergency clinics, which was uncharted territory for some. Those of us who find solace in surgery were left without our happy place so that we could preserve personal protective equipment.
What I feared
At my practice, each day brought new challenges and demands, including an overwhelming number of emergencies, back-to-back appointments, after-hours calls, financial constraints among pet owners, confusion about new protocols, critical case management and, of course, many phone calls. We faced these challenges head on while holding back our own worries. Fear of having to close the practice if someone became ill and the entire staff had to be quarantined overwhelmed me, as did financial concerns about the what the future would hold for my business.
What I realized
One afternoon I spoke on the phone with a long-time client as he described how much he missed his son’s baseball season. I always enjoyed hearing updates about his beloved son, and I could hear the pain and sadness in his voice. Missing a sporting season may sound trivial to some, but sports were what bonded this man and his son. I was saddened to hear such a strong individual express such fear and uncertainty.
I realized that he was reaching out to me for guidance and hope for the future. He was turning to me for answers that I didn’t have about what lies ahead. It was heartbreaking, and it became apparent that the situation veterinary practices are facing is not unlike many others—we are all filled with some level of fear, uncertainty, pain and heartache right now. We are all evolving and coming to terms with what has become a new norm.
What I learned
Teamwork and dedication can help you get through any scary situation. A little positivity goes a long way. Something as simple as starting out the morning with an inspirational thought or prayer can make all the difference in the world. We all have fears and anxieties; we just have to work together to get past them.
Every person on our veterinary practice team has a place and a purpose. In times like these, take advantage of their strengths. When we learned that one of our teammates was an awesome painter, we took advantage of the lack of clients in the building to give the practice a facelift. Seeing the old building come to life again was inspiring and uplifting. It was also a reminder that we are an example of public health and community leaders. We play a role in educating our clients and illustrating the importance of following the rules and guidelines set by experts.
Dr. Shana Bohac is the owner of Navarro Small Animal Clinic in Victoria, Texas. She has a passion for surgery as well as compassionate wellness care. She has a husband, Brandon, daughter, Aiden, three crazy cats, two dogs and a handful of horses.