Providing the best possible care to their patients has always been at the forefront of our veterinarians’ minds. Working through a pandemic has changed the way they provide care, but it hasn’t affected the way they feel about the important job they do. In fact, in most cases, the opposite has occurred - and the changes brought forth by COVID have allowed our doctors to grow as professionals by adding to their arsenal of skills whether it be through improving their client communication or utilizing telemedicine technology.
In the middle of March, our practices had to make a quick transition from business as usual to providing curbside care. Thanks to virtual regional meetings, one-on-one discussions, and larger conversations that encouraged team members to share their best practices, every hospital was able to settle into a new routine and make individual adjustments that worked for them, specifically. Since then, VetCor practices have seen approximately 1.1 million patients, including roughly 175,000 new ones.
Transitioning from in-person appointments to curbside care was a big change for everyone - but that’s not the only change our practices have seen. Pleasant Hills Pet Hospital’s Chief of Staff, Dr. Joleen Mihalic, says she’s noticed a change in the way she communicates with clients. She explains that, because she’s now unable to rely on non-verbal cues, she’s more aware of her tone and how fast she’s speaking when conversing with clients. She’s also found that she uses more layman's terms with clients and spends more time asking questions in hopes that her clients will be more detailed in their responses. These communication improvements are something she plans to continue utilizing well after COVID is over, especially when it comes to communicating via email and phone.
We also understood that, because of the pandemic, recent graduates would be faced with the challenge of starting their careers while maintaining social distancing. To give them the opportunity to virtually connect with other recent grads, we created a new grad buddy group and hosted an online meet and greet to let them build connections. Dr. Kristen Stowel, a 2020 grad working at Elkhorn Veterinary Clinic, says her onboarding experience went smoothly. As a large animal vet, she doesn’t have to worry about client interaction as much as small animal veterinarians do and, although wearing a mask has made it a bit more difficult for her to tube horses or perform more labor intensive procedures outdoors, her overall experience has been very positive. She also cites the support of the Elkhorn team in making the transition to a new practice easy despite the challenges posed by COVID.
Dr. James Hegeman is a new grad working at Cedar Brook Animal Hospital where he once started out as a technician. As a former team member, he had the advantage of knowing the practice and the team both inside and out. He admits that his transition felt a little bit rushed initially but, thanks to Cedar Brook’s dedicated team and support from VetCor’s network of practices, he was able to learn the ropes fairly quickly and the hospital was able to move to the curbside care model. Since then, everything has continued to go well and, these days, the team is facing more mundane challenges, such as trying to implement new services, like ultrasound.
At the end of the day, our practices have benefited greatly from both their colleagues and the VetCor network which has allowed them to adjust to these new care models with relative ease. As eager as they are to see their clients in-person, most will continue providing curbside care to keep everyone healthy and safe.
And even though COVID has brought about a lot of unexpected obstacles, it’s also allowed our teams to develop new skills and implement new processes that they’ll keep in place for years to come.