It’s no secret that veterinary teams already work in a high-stress environment, and we have all seen the effect this environment has on our teams. Add the outside stressors of a pandemic, internal worry about each staff member’s family, clients with short fuses, and your staff is hustling on fumes. Now is the time to show extra care for your team members. Here are a few ways to help your staff—and yourself—during these difficult times.
Positive feedback goes a long way
During this time, let’s remember that our team members need to be reminded of how well they are doing, and they should be reminded often. Regardless of how your business has been labeled by your local government, providing health care to pets in need is what we do—it’s our superpower! Your team is essential, and they need to hear how valued they are. Tell them how much you appreciate them, and share positive client feedback with them during this time, too!
Don’t forget to bring the fun to lighten the mood
Yes, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t lighten the mood and have some fun. Here are a few ideas:
- Order a coloring door or wall mural, along with some paint pens, on Amazon, and allow your team to doodle away their frustrations when they need to.
- If you have a closet with room for a stool in your practice, consider turning it into a small sanctuary for stressed-out team members. Equip it with a stool, a soothing noise machine, and some soothing wall stickers for a private, no-questions-asked 5-minute oasis so team members can recenter themselves.
- Order in some DoorDash or UberEats as a surprise.
Don’t forget about self-care and team support
- Educate the team on compassion fatigue, and watch for signs that a team member may be struggling. According to a DVM360 self assessment, some signs of compassion fatigue can look the same as things we are inadvertently already experiencing as part of COVID-19 and quarantining. It is possible that current events may exacerbate or accelerate these feelings within our teams:
- Bottled-up emotions
- Isolation from others
- Preoccupied and/or difficulty concentrating
- If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), remind staff that they may be able to get help with many outside stressors, including health and safety concerns, financial and legal problems, work-related conflict and stress, and family matters.
- Have an employee who likes to meditate? Offer to let them lead a quick meditation break a few times a week, or when the day has gone sideways.
- Turn off the lights in your treatment room, grab the yoga mats, and download a meditation app on your hospital iPad and graciously give the staff a 10-minute “time out.”
- In lieu of another email, send a daily Loom video to your team!
Share the load
As leaders, we often feel as if we must shoulder the burden for our teams, and have an answer for everything that will and may happen. These are unprecedented times. There is no right or wrong way to get through this. Every industry has been affected by COVID-19, so don’t be afraid to look outside the veterinary industry to glean some useful tips.
Ask your team for help! Brainstorm solutions with them to address their struggles. You don’t have to—and shouldn’t—take on everything by yourself. Your team wants to be part of the solution, so lighten your load and let them take pride in their contribution. We will all get through this together, and the veterinary industry will be better for it.
Kelly McElhinney, CVPM
Kelly has been working in the veterinary industry since 1999, with experience in private practice, corporate, specialty and emergency. In 2013, she earned her Certified Veterinary Practice Manager designation and holds an MBA in Human Resources. As an App Success Coach at Vet2Pet, Kelly makes it her mission to help practices exceed their goals, increase client engagement and bridge the gap between veterinarian and pet owner.