The New Normal in Veterinary Medicine

By LaDawna Lawton

COVID-19 is causing a worldwide panic, but we remain open and optimistic. Every vet clinic is dealing with this new challenge. Each day is something new, and it’s a struggle to keep up with government guidelines, while keeping fearful clients and staff comfortable. While many veterinary hospitals are experiencing a downturn in business, ours is not. We are located in a military and agricultural community, which has a shortage of veterinary care and a lot of essential businesses. So, in our corner of the world, business is booming.

We feel it is our duty to continue serving our community by helping pets. We want our fearful clients to receive the care they need to feel comfortable, which ranges from drop-off appointments, to curbside care, to traditional walk-in visits. And, we’ve taken steps to ensure our clients are informed about the services we’re providing during the pandemic:

  • We recorded an on-hold message reflecting the customized care we’re providing.
  • We advertised our curbside care on Facebook and Google.
  • We regularly send COVID updates to our clients using push notifications through our practice app.

Our new normal

COVID has changed many of our business practices and procedures, as well as our lives. We are concerned about our staff, and, just like the public, we are all experiencing a vast span of emotions. We have two employees who are too fearful to work, so they are off until they feel safe enough to return. We have other employees who have little to no concern, and most fall somewhere in the middle.

While we have limited our wellness visits, we do not see these as “non-essential,” because we live in a county where parvovirus and pet overpopulation could almost be considered their own pandemics. To continue serving our clients and patients, we are limiting our numbers of appointments and encouraging clients to drop pets off for routine visits.

“COVID concern” drop-off appointments

Our normally underutilized “drop-off” appointments for working pet parents have taken on a whole new concept: the “COVID concern” drop-off appointment. For these appointments, the client drops their pet off early in the morning, the doctor works the exam into the day, and then phones the client with treatment recommendations. The client is free to pick their pet up any time before we close.

Curbside-care appointments

Curbside appointments are for the more anxious pet parents who do not want to leave their pets. The client pulls into our parking lot and phones us. We then retrieve the pet from the car and take him or her inside for the exam or treatment, calling the client for additional information when needed or to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan and education. The pet is then returned, and payment is made from the comfort and safety of the client’s car.

In-clinic appointments

There are still brave (or reckless?) clients who expect in-clinic help. For those visits, we have made special accommodations. During the confirmation call, we ask clients to print out forms online and fill them out prior to their visit. We also inform them that we do not want them to come if they are showing any signs of illness, as our staff is trying to stay well so we can continue to serve the community.

Our appointments usually occur every 20 minutes, but we have now blocked off every other appointment for time to thoroughly clean and disinfect the hospital. We have removed all but five chairs from our waiting room, and we ask that only one human accompany each pet, except for euthanasia cases or other extenuating circumstances. We room everyone promptly to avoid exposure in the lobby.

This new normal has been forced upon us all. It is our goal amidst this crisis to be a constant in our community. We are all in this COVID crisis together, and we should not panic. We will hold fast, remain open, and be there for our clients and our community. As our on-hold message indicates, we will remain open unless our doctor becomes ill or the government mandates a closure. Stay strong, my fellow veterinary clinics! We will get through this. 

LaDawna Lawton

LaDawna Lawton is the Practice Manager at Karing for Kreatures located in California. She has been a valued technology partner with Vet2Pet since April 2019.

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