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Chapter 5: Tales from the COVID-19 front lines

As veterinary practices adjust to the new normal, client frustration grows over visitation guidelines and hospital owners encounter hurdles when applying for government aid.

Chapter 5: Tales from the COVID-19 front lines
Talega Animal Hospital in San Clemente, California, spells out what clients need to do if they aren’t familiar with new protocols.

This week: Tiny acts of gratitude, courtesy of bosses, clients and industry reps, can lift the spirits of veterinary teams during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, Dr. Peter Weinstein reports: “The debacle of trying to get federal funding continues with some practices getting lucky and some getting totally frustrated.”

Read other installments in this series:
Chapter 1  Chapter 2  Chapter 3  Chapter 4  Chapter 6  Chapter 7
Chapter 8  Chapter 9  Chapter 10  Chapter 11  Chapter 12  Chapter 13  Chapter 14  Chapter 15

North Carolina veterinarian, speaker, consultant and Today’s Veterinary Business editorial adviser Ernie Ward, DVM, CVFT

Anger, frustration and anxiety were the feelings I encountered from many of my veterinary colleagues last week. I could begin to see cracks in the brave faces of some of my most positive and optimistic friends as the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on. In general, most folks in my network were asking two questions: “Why?” and “How long will it last?”

The answers are beginning to create some negative responses.

Anger was a new emotion I observed last week. Many veterinarians and veterinary support staff are angry at the general stay-at-home situation, angry at hostile clients demanding nail trims and bosses and managers relenting to them, and angry that there is still so much uncertainty about SARS-CoV-2. I’m hearing more stories about clients acting more aggressively and insisting on being seen for non-essential services, including bathing and long-overdue vaccines. Clients are also reported to be quick-tempered when being asked to wait in their cars while the pet is taken from them and brought into the clinic.

Of course, there are also many tales of compassionate bosses doling out hazard pay bonuses and of pet owners dropping off food in appreciation of the veterinary team’s service. It’s these tiny acts of gratitude that nurture us during stressful times.

Frustration with state and federal government economic recovery programs is another sentiment colleagues are sharing. What was supposed to be a fairly straightforward disaster-assistance program has morphed into a convoluted and complicated application process with new limitations announced nearly daily. Many veterinarians complained that they doubted whether they or staff members would see much financial assistance, if any at all. Hopefully over the next few weeks we will see the much-publicized and promised economic recovery funds helping our professional peers.

Anxiety has crept into conversations I’m having with veterinary professionals around the country. Most of the anxiety is centered around “When will we resume normal business?” and “What will my practice revenue be once this is over?” While no one has a clear answer, I believe we’ll begin to see glimmers of positive economic news by the end of the year. Historically, veterinary services and pet supplies have better withstood economic downturns than other sectors of our economy. My observation is that the surge in pandemic pets, meaning pets adopted during the COVID-19 crisis, will provide a boost to overall veterinary and pet revenues in the second half of 2020.

My advice is to continue to put the proverbial one foot in front of the other each day. Some days will seem almost normal while others seem downright apocalyptic. That’s OK and perfectly understandable. We all feel that way. By staying in touch with each other we can realize that we’re not alone in this or unique in our emotions. This is real life, pandemics and all. Stay safe, and give your pets a hug from me. It’s good for us all.

Veterinary industry consultant and Southern California Veterinary Medical Association executive director Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA

In California, now that we are fully engulfed in the new (ab)normal, change isn’t as dramatic. Most practices have settled into their drive-by version of veterinary medicine. Staffing needs are still quite uncertain, and determining schedules is even more challenging than it was before. Client demand still seems quite high, and in many cases trying to clearly define what are essential services and what can wait is still being negotiated. Anxiety levels continue to grow as more and more COVID-19 cases are identified and as more friends, family and even distant acquaintances are directly or indirectly impacted.

An interesting trend or situation is the number of pets being fostered or adopted by people who are hunkered and bunkered. Shelter populations in many areas of So Cal are significantly below populations compared with the same time last year. At least one smaller shelter is completely devoid of adoptable pets.

Of course, more adoptions means the need for an initial veterinary examination. And the necessity of this examination in the face of a pandemic is a source for discussion among veterinary hospital teams. Don’t forget that a rabies vaccination might be required by your local licensing and sheltering organizations. Check locally to ascertain your licensing agency’s mandates. And of course, there is the differential cost licensing between a desexed and an intact dog. Does that make orchiectomy and ovariohysterectomy a necessary procedure? I don’t have an answer for that one.

The debacle of trying to get federal funding continues with some practices getting lucky and some getting totally frustrated. Keep on trying. Seek expert help and opinions. This could be almost free money if you understand the guidelines. And if you can use it to keep your team intact today, they will be there for you tomorrow.

Recently, we conducted a town hall featuring experts in the field of marketing. Kelly Baltzell, Connie Gualiano, Jenise Walker, Robin Brogdon, Linda Kaplan, Kristina Hogan and Shelley Johnson weighed in on the need for ongoing, transparent, educational outreach to veterinary clients using every media possible. There was a consensus that you can’t overcommunicate in the current environment. Reach out to existing clients and let them know your new normal. Discuss the curbside pickup and the telemedicine. Let there be no surprises. In a time of high stress, surprises will in no uncertain terms piss off people. And in spite of everything else being shut down, unfortunately, Yelp still works.

What are you learning from the current status that can be carried over to the future when this crisis ends? Have you created and documented the new systems and processes that you have integrated into your client experience and patient experience? How about your updated disinfection and cleaning protocols? A process is a recipe for doing things. The same way. Each time. Every time. All the time. Without fail. If you write down your recipes as if they are for chocolate cake, you will be able to make a perfect cake every time. Create consistency now that you can carry over to the future.

Finally, celebrate the small victories. Every hour. Every day. Every week. Every month. The longer we go through this, the more emotionally taxing it becomes. Find a way to party likes it’s 1999 — RIP, Prince — after the littlest successes or just as a way of saying thank you. Of course, food can create a partylike atmosphere even if you are practicing social distancing. Come up with new ways to make each other feel good about themselves and feel good about their teammates and their leadership.

Take care of yourselves within your practice and between practices. We can come out of this stronger as a profession if we take care of each other.

Cary Consulting CEO and change agent Mia Cary, DVM

We have all heard time and again, in one form or another, that the oxygen mask rule is legit. The better we take care of ourselves, the better equipped we are to take care of others. On the good days we know this to be true, on the not so good days it is easy to brush this off as unattainable or false. During this challenging COVID-19 era, it’s important to remind ourselves and each other of this truth: The oxygen mask rule is legit. The American Veterinary Medical Association and many other sources state that there are nine dimensions of well-being. On the surface, nine dimensions can seem overwhelming — that’s a lot of well-being to try to cultivate.

The good news is that many activities touch multiple dimensions, so it’s easy to double-dip. To help remember these nine well-being dimensions, last year I morphed them to create an acrostic, as seen below, so that each letter in the word “well-being” represents one of the nine dimensions.

To show you how easy it is to double-dip, I’ve applied the well-being dimensions to an event that a practice manager shared with me last week after an industry rep provided lunch for her team.

  • (W) Work/career: The workday was more enjoyable for everyone on the team because they took a lunch break to celebrate each other and their important, essential work.
  • (E) Emotional: During the luncheon, each staff member was invited to share one thing he or she was grateful for. This helped provide perspective, and they got to know each other better during the process.
  • (L) SpirituaL: Taking a moment to acknowledge the importance of their work helped them see they were connected to something larger than themselves, regardless of their religious background and beliefs.
  • (L) SociaL: The team lunch reinforced that they were a network of support for each other.
  • (B) Creativity and diversity Bonus: Several team members, all from different backgrounds and each representing a different role in the practice, worked together to create gift bags containing fun and useful stress-relief items. These were given to each staff member during the luncheon. Side note: This dimension is officially the creative dimension. I added “diversity” to the dimension because the diversity bonus is also legit and because I needed a “B” for the acrostic.
  • (E) Environmental: At the end of the luncheon, the team went into the practice’s backyard for 10 minutes of sunshine before gearing up for the afternoon appointments.
  • (I) Intellectual: During the luncheon, everybody shared their current favorite podcast.
  • (N) Financial Numbers: The luncheon was happily funded by the industry representative, who also covered the cost of the goodies in the care kits. This resulted in no expense to the practice and an industry rep who was grateful to help.
  • (G) Physical Growth: During the 10 minutes of sunshine, team members were invited to share their favorite stretch. Everyone participated, and the luncheon ended with laughter and an energized team ready to take care of each other, their clients and their patients.

Call to action: Email or call your favorite industry reps and ask them to support such an event at your practice. They are standing by, trying to stay out of your way and wanting to help.

Getting Technical columnist, practice management consultant and Patterson Veterinary University instructor Sandy Walsh, RVT, CVPM

Most practices have mastered the art of personal protective equipment and serving our clients and patients curbside. I believe this will change how we serve clients once we emerge from the pandemic. We’ve learned some valuable lessons in client service and really maximized our time.

Because of restricted access and limited services being offered, revenue continues to drop. Some practices have suffered more than others, and practice owners continue to worry. Many have taken advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program and some have even received the funds. This is helping to quash the fears of financial devastation for owners and support staff.

Sadly, I am starting to see some teams weakening. Particularly those where the employees don’t feel protected and supported by the practice owners because the focus is too heavily on revenue rather than safety. These practices will be different at the end and might lose valuable staff and doctors to practices that were more employee-centric. Now is the time to take care of each other. We’ll get through this. There’s a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

Beyond Indigo Pets CEO and Today’s Veterinary Business editorial adviser Kelly Baltzell, MA

As we enter another week of the crisis, it feels like we are deep into the grinder of endurance. The light at the tunnel is a moving target. We just have to hunker down and keep on keeping on. What I have seen is the following:

Some hospitals are actually doing well because competitors shut down. They kept their doors open and kept reaching out to pet owners.

Switching a practice’s Google ads to focus on urgent and emergency care is helping pet owners find medical care when it’s needed most.

Telehealth is constantly changing. Dr. Jess Trimble gives the latest updates every Wednesday at 1 p.m. EDT on Facebook Live with Beyond Indigo Pets. Visit https://bit.ly/2xmdsZC. Jess’ last update can be seen at https://bit.ly/2K2ECYk.

To help find a light at the end of the tunnel and how to prepare for it, Deb Stone, Trey Cutler and David McCormick will host a panel discussion at 2 p.m. EDT at https://bit.ly/3eieIxS.

In the meanwhile, keep reaching out to clients through social media, blogs, website, Google My Business, telephone, texting and email. It’s all working for my clients.

White House, Tennessee, hospital managing partner Whit Cothern, DVM

My practice, Orchard Park Animal Hospital, experienced consistent double-digit revenue growth over the past two years, so seeing those double-digits suddenly turn negative was humbling. Last week, our decrease in revenue compared with the same week in 2019 appeared to be in line with what other large practices in the Nashville area are witnessing, per VetSuccess. However, the rate of decline appears to be slowing to about half of what it was three weeks ago.

These declines still seem to be self-inflicted. We’ve gone from three doctors and 10 to 12 support staff on most days to one or two doctors and five or six staff. We’ve postponed elective anesthetic procedures, canceled boarding and grooming services, and continued to discourage all non-medically necessary visits. In the end, we’ve purposely reduced our business capacity by approximately 35%. If there is any silver lining, it’s that our revenue declines are significantly less than that amount.

We are regularly reminding team members to be thorough. A wait-and-see approach might not be in the best interest of the pet and pet owner. Not only are there the risks and challenges of once again leaving the house, there are also fewer appointments available for a follow-up visit. We’ve also asked the team to be more straight-forward in asking pet owners to buy medications directly from us as every little bit helps right now.

Finally, we know and recognize the team is being pushed harder physically and mentally. Despite this, everyone has remained patient, professional and committed to being here for pets that need care. We’ve furloughed approximately 30% of our employees, with those remaining working fewer hours. Less staff also means those working must pick up the slack while getting a smaller paycheck. In a small effort to show our appreciation and support local restaurants, we have provided lunch every day the past three weeks and hope to continue it for the duration. The whole team agrees that we will at least be well fed regardless of what happens next.

Creative Disruption columnist and WellHaven Pet Health chief medical officer Bob Lester, DVM

Hard to believe it’s been only a bit over a month. I continue to be impressed by the leaders emerging across our profession. In the midst of crisis, tough choices are being made using compassion, empathy and honesty, all while keeping an eye to the near future when we will emerge from COVID-19 stronger than before.

As all leaders know, good communication is critical now more than ever. In the absence of strong communication, fear and confusion rule. Good communication shows that you care and understand and that we are all in this together. Leaders understand the importance of consistent, frequent, bidirectional and transparent communication, sharing both what we know and what we don’t know.

Communication must be directed externally to clients, assuring them that veterinary care is essential and we’re open for business, that we’ve undertaken enhanced safety measures, and that their fur babies will not get or transmit this virus.

Communication directed internally to hospital teams should assure that we are committed to the safety of our teams, clients and the pets that need us. This is a strong commitment not just to our team’s physical well-being but to their emotional and financial well-being as well.

Communication is taking place across multiple modalities. Social media, websites, video, chats, blogs, email, texts and telephone for clients. Webinars, huddles, team meetings, one on ones, newsletters, SharePoint sites and emails internally for teams. It’s nearly impossible to overcommunicate in difficult times.

Our leaders are moving from reactive to proactive. For the first several weeks of this crisis, like all of society, we were forced to react to daily and sometimes hourly changes. We’re now moving to a more proactive period where we can once again lead with the confidence that the lights are still on and that we can continue to care for pets. We can show confidence that within a relatively short time, we will return to a more stable and safer environment. The impending bull market case is getting easier to make. The virus curve is flattening, our peak season is coming, pet adoptions have skyrocketed and pent-up demand for our services is enormous.

That’s a nice formula for a strong future.

This crisis will serve as a catalyst post-COVID, resulting in stronger, nimbler and better-connected leaders and teams. Together we will get through this better than before.

I’ve never been prouder to be a veterinary professional.

Veterinary nurse and National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America President Kenichiro Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC) (SAIM)

As the COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing continue, stresses are starting to build. Pet owners are being affected by layoffs and financial uncertainty, though their pets still need care. Their stress and anxiety can translate into confrontational behavior toward the veterinary team, including technicians and nurses. Some clients accuse staff of being heartless for charging a fee for veterinary services.

If that isn’t enough, members of the profession are seeing a surge in euthanasias, which the pandemic’s economic impact has contributed to as more pet owners are unable to afford care. Adding to it are uncertainties and fears surrounding how animals can contribute to the spread of COVID-19. Veterinary professionals have a responsibility to be equipped with facts to provide sound recommendations. A great summary of reports, evidence and recommendations are available from the AVMA at http://bit.ly/3d9uaLT. A brief summary: While there is still little to no evidence of natural infection for animals, keep practicing good hygiene and limiting contact with other people and animals.

At practices, adjustments are being made to the implemented strategies. The exhaustion that can come from a seven-day-on, seven-day-off schedule or a 12-hour shift rotation to minimize exposure is worrisome in terms of sustainability. Teams are adjusting to the inevitable emergence of colleagues having to enter quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 or learning of someone they’ve been in contact with testing positive.

Within these tough times, the positives might be that many team members are stepping up to embrace leadership opportunities and are being empowered to make clinical judgments. Telemedicine is more in demand today, and veterinary technicians are being hired on to utilize their clinical expertise through telemedicine technologies. One running joke of the week is that many veterinary technicians have learned to identify all the different breeds of automobiles waiting for curbside service in the parking lot.

Supporting each other is important, as is keeping up the positivity while knowing that what will happen going forward is uncertain. We don’t know exactly how long this will last and the lasting impact on our profession. What we do know is that we’re here to support each other, adapt and try to find solutions. We will get through it together.

Veterinary industry consultant Debbie Boone, CVPM

Last week brought positive news about flattening the curve, but practices are still dealing with the new normal. I saw practice managers making great efforts to keep their teams engaged and connected. Easter egg hunts with prizes popped up in my news feed along with bingo games and free lunches, many of them courtesy of sales reps working to stay connected with customers.

Technology use is still progressing as hospitals embrace the tools needed to connect with clients and maintain distancing rules. The competition for free tools seems to be escalating, which is great for practices looking to get involved in two-way texting and telehealth.

Everyone seems to have adjusted to the new norm, and fewer protocol questions are being asked. There is a hunker-down-and-move-through vibe.

Mental health is being addressed through free online webinars. Acknowledging the stress from the team and client sides is healthy. At first, clients seemed to either ignore the stay-in-the-car rule or be very appreciative of the practice’s concern for their health. Now, as we have operated for several weeks under new protocols and clients have sheltered in place or gone to work with COVID-19 looming over their heads, they seem to be getting more annoyed with the new boundaries. The restrictions are wearing on everyone. As always, open communication is the key to working together with pet owners to have the best possible outcome.

I recommend setting client expectations for the visit through communication before pet owners arrive. Yes, clinics have had new procedures for weeks now, but many clients are coming for the first time under these new guidelines and need to be informed. It might be wise to send another email to all clients, reexplaining the rules, confessing how everyone is being impacted and even aggravated, mentioning how we miss being able to offer a hug or handshake, and asking for kindness and patience as we all hunker down to stay well.

The euthanasia visits seem to be taking the greatest toll on teams. Saying goodbye to a favorite patient at normal times is heartbreaking, but not allowing the client to be with the pet and then to not being able to offer the comfort of touch is a heavy burden. Human health care workers are managing the death-with-distance heartbreak daily, but the veterinary profession is equally laden and wounded. Have grief counselors available for clients and staff members. Contact a local funeral director if you need to find a resource.

Finally, keep your body and mind healthy. I am seeing lots of comments about overeating because of stress and boredom. The loss of control is one of the emotions COVID-19 has exacerbated. Practice conscience eating. I found it helpful to track my food on a fitness app and to practice yoga and meditation daily. I started this in December, and it has been very helpful during the pandemic, giving me something I can control. Loss of routine is one of the roots of anxiety. Create a new routine.

The Vet Recruiter founder and CEO Stacy Pursell, CPC, CERS

I heard multiple clients last week complain about staff members not wanting to come to work or not being able to work. One client had 12 support staff members out last week.

My company helped a veterinarian who was looking for a new position after being let go from her employer for expressing concerns that the hospital’s protocols were not enough to protect the staff from COVID-19. She had worked at the practice for 15 years. We already have her lined up for an interview with one of our clients.

More clients are implementing video interviews. As veterinary practices and veterinarians become comfortable, more are starting to schedule an in-person interview after doing a video interview first. We are seeing some delayed start dates to later in May. We also are seeing more relief veterinarians looking for full-time positions with benefits.

Many practices continue to interview veterinarians to fill open positions.

VetSuccess CEO and founder Martin Traub-Werner

For the third week in a row, veterinary practices experienced a similar percentage drop in revenue and invoices. While it is likely still too early to say with certainty, could the numbers be leveling off to a new normal in response to COVID-19? It is encouraging that the decline in revenue and invoices last week did not continue to test new lows. As we enter another week of this crisis, we may be starting to understand the trend here and, barring incremental or new shocks to the system, stability in the numbers will allow us to make plans going forward.

For the week of Monday, April 6 through Saturday, April 11, VetSuccess data from more than 2,500 U.S. practices again showed a drop in both revenue and invoices each day from the same day the prior year. Year-over-year daily average revenue per practice was down 13% nationwide, compared to being down 13% the previous week. It’s interesting to note that larger practices were down 16% compared to smaller practices, which were down only 7.5%. Not including home-delivery data, pharmacy revenue was up 4%, whereas over-the-counter and diet revenue was down 12% and professional services revenue was down 14%.

We saw a similar story for invoices, with year-over-year daily average invoices per practice down 16% nationwide, compared to being down 16% the previous week. Larger practices were down 18%, compared to being down 17% the previous week. Smaller practices were down 11%, compared to being down 12% the previous week. The top three states with the most significant change in invoices year over year were Massachusetts, down 28.5%; Maryland, down 25%; and New Jersey, down 24%.

[For additional data, see the interactive Veterinary Industry Impact Tracker from VetSuccess at https://bit.ly/3afxUd0.

Money Matters columnist and veterinary industry consultant Leslie A. Mamalis, MBA, MSIT, CVA

On March 27, President Trump signed the CARES Act, which contained $376 billion in relief for American workers and small businesses. The Paycheck Protection Plan, a much-awaited portion of the stimulus bill, would lend small businesses two-plus months of payroll expenses to encourage employers to keep employment numbers at the same level as when the COVID-19 crisis began. Unfortunately, the uncoordinated rollout of the Paycheck Protection Plan has creating frustration, anger and, unfortunately, alarm. Lacking comprehensive details on how they would be repaid, many banks delayed access to the loan money for several days. The overwhelming response from veterinary practices and other small businesses caused some lenders to stop accepting applications in as little as two days.

Those practices that successfully applied and received approval breathed a collective sigh of relief. Unfortunately, many others were unable to complete loan applications simply because they couldn’t reach lenders’ websites. I’ve heard from a number of practices that eventually received application invitations from their banks. While some applicants remain in the lending queue, others received nonspecific denial notices and advice to apply through another lender.

For business owners with long-term banking relationships, the lack of transparency in the loan process as well as unexplained denials might result in a termination of those relationships once we return to business as usual. For others, waiting days without word from their lenders, anxiety over keeping employees safe, and worry over whether funds will run out by the time someone reviews their application stoke doubts that government assistance will reach them.

As the shutdown continues, some practices I work with are down slightly businesswise while others are seeing bigger reductions. However, some veterinary practices that had very few appointments in the first few weeks of the outbreak are seeing appointment slots begin to fill, though not to capacity.

Colorado had warm spring weather the past two weeks, which drove people and dogs outside. I saw several local sports medicine facilities with an increase in cases. With snow in the forecast for the first part of this week and people spending more time indoors, those hospitals should see a reduced workload.

Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group assistant vice president of veterinary relations Wendy Hauser, DVM

Over the past week, I spoke with the president of a major distribution company, listened to a live webinar on the overall state of veterinary medicine’s regulatory and legislative affairs, sat in on an investor call, and spoke with other industry professionals and private practitioners. I would sum up the general attitude from these conversations as resignation moving to acceptance.

We are likely to be in this alternate universe for longer than many of us expected. Those who have accepted this new way of being have been able to transition into a state of action: What do they need to keep doing or change to protect employees, serve clients and, as one colleague said, “Be good world citizens”? As leaders in your practices, how do you help your teams move into the acceptance phase, where they have a sense of more control?

1. Create a buddy system within your hospital. This could mean paired groupings, units of people who are working together or randomly assigned sets of three to four individuals. Each person will have the responsibility of checking in and checking on cohorts. It is better to schedule a time each day to have each grouping make these connections. Don’t forget employees who might be furloughed or working from home, so use video conferencing to create a sense of unity and connectivity.

Ideas for how each cluster could support each other include asking:

  • “What expectation of normal am I letting go of today?”
  • “What is one thing am I grateful for today?”
  • “Have I connected with at least three other people today in a meaningful way?”
  • “ What brought a smile to my face today?”

2. Invest in yourself. What would you like to learn that you haven’t had the time to pursue? The veterinary community is awash in great webinars, both medical and business oriented. An added benefit is that many of these are eligible for CE credits, and most states have relaxed their limits on distance learning.

I encourage each of you to look outside of our profession for self-growth opportunities. Too often we stay within the boundaries of veterinary medicine and miss out on learning new concepts that challenge our ideas. Check out https://bit.ly/2V4WAjn through LinkedIn for a variety of professional growth opportunities. It’s free for 30 days.

Take Charge columnist and Charleston, South Carolina, practice manager Abby Suiter, MBA, CVPM

Our revenue is experiencing a persistent decline as stay-at-home orders are lengthened. However, there continues to be sufficient demand for essential appointments to keep our team engaged and working.

We elected to maintain regular business and staffing hours for the foreseeable future as both a service to our clients and patients and to keep our employees fully employed. We are using cash reserves to financially support this decision for now and will use future Paycheck Protection Program funds to continue to do so for the duration.

As we begin to experience pockets of downtime throughout the workday, I am encouraging the team to fill their time with not just hospital cleaning but also activities that will pay dividends for the hospital and personal careers. These activities include participating in continuing education, improving training protocols, writing blogs for our website, cleaning up practice software data, revamping our strategic marketing plan, completing inventory audits and upgrading IT capabilities.

Coaching the team to efficiently use unplanned downtime will take some behavior conditioning, but we have a great opportunity to capitalize on an unconventional overstaffing situation.

I am proud of the resiliency my team has shown over the past month and look forward to coming through this situation better than when we entered it.

Today’s Veterinary Nurse editor-in-chief and NAVC director of veterinary nursing Kara Burns, MS, MEd, LVT, VTS (Nutrition)

As the new normal continues, last week witnessed a number of new challenges. Starting with the Bronx Zoo tiger testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, client calls increased from nervous pet owners. As medical professionals, we understand the science, but most pet owners do not. Veterinary teams are grappling with clients’ concerns that their pets might contract or spread COVID-19 to humans. Veterinary teams have been telling clients that infectious-disease experts, along with U.S. and global human and animal health organizations, state that there is no evidence of the spread of COVID-19 from pets to other animals or humans.

Veterinary teams are adjusting to curbside service, and it appears that many veterinary nurses across the country are increasingly busy with different responsibilities. Non-essential services might not be offered at this time, but veterinary nurses are seeing their skills utilized in unique ways: history-taking over the phone, car-side pickup of patients and ever-changing protocols as the hospital tries to protect employees, pet owners and patients against COVID-19.

Veterinary nurses are resilient. We adapt and make the best out of the situation. I see many of my colleagues facing hardships and anxiety. But they are thinking of their colleagues and are making personal protective equipment on their off time. They are sharing memes and uplifting sentiments on social media. And they are offering words of encouragement to colleagues who have had to work through an incredibly difficult day.

Difficult times can bring out the best and the worst in individuals. I am so proud to see my colleagues lifting each other up, being there for clients and working with their veterinary team colleagues to provide the best care for patients. We rise by lifting others. In veterinary medicine, this is clear now more than ever.

We want to hear from you: How has the COVID-19 emergency affected you, your practice or your veterinary business? Email editor Ken Niedziela at [email protected].

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