Leadership requires integrity, courage, passion, and humility, especially in the face of challenges such as the ongoing pandemic. Fortunately, our vet leaders are the real deal and they’ve stepped up to the plate to help our hospital managers navigate how to successfully operate their practices in the midst of coronavirus and improve their leadership and management skills. Our vet leaders have been demonstrating that willingness to inspire and lend a hand since the pandemic first began and they found solutions to problems they’d never had to face before, like how to utilize telemedicine to keep clients and practice teams safe.
A number of additional obstacles also presented themselves: how were we going to create safety protocols when different states required different measures? How would those protocols be communicated? How would utilizing telemedicine affect scheduling? How could we minimize burnout at the practice level and maintain employee morale? In the beginning, the questions were endless and the answers were few but our vet leaders put their heads together, identified problem areas, did a lot of digging and even more discussing, and came back to the table with viable solutions.
As we discussed in a prior article, utilizing telemedicine and other technology has been a total game changer and it still is. One of our vet leaders, Dr. Chad Harris, talks about how his team relies on monthly (and sometimes even weekly) calls to communicate, learn, and spin ideas. COVID has caused us to become more reliant on technology than we once were but the leaders within our company have only used that change to their advantage. For example, Dr. Harris is using technology not only to communicate with clients after seeing their pets but also to educate and train fellow veterinarians. Ever helpful, he’s utilized technology to help a new Chief of Staff deal with difficult clients, address human resources issues, and even walk through surgery. The possibilities have been endless.
And while our vet leaders have solved a number of logistical issues by introducing new technology, they’ve also had to rely on compassion and emotional intelligence to overcome more complicated obstacles, like how to support employees who are struggling particularly hard during this time. Being an essential worker isn’t easy. Animal hospitals are booked for weeks out, clients aren’t always as understanding as they could be, and team members are anxious, stressed, and exhausted - physically and mentally.
Our vet leaders acknowledge the additional stress that everyone is currently dealing with and they’ve worked hard to prioritize wellbeing and self-care. Dr. Bryan Haag says that it’s essential for teams, leaders, and individuals to find ways to manage stress, anxiety, and burnout. Specifically, he emphasizes the importance of using paid time off when needed and practicing self-care. What that looks like will vary from individual to individual but Headspace, the new mindfulness app being offered to full-time employees as a wellbeing benefit, keeps him grounded and helps him manage stress.
Speaking to both the technological obstacles and those revolving around burnout and self-care, Dr. Haag remarks, “These are likely challenges we’ll be facing into the foreseeable future. As leaders and as a community, we must continue to work together to provide and share the best ideas for the guidance of our teams.” And he’s absolutely right. A few months ago, we had a lot more questions than answers and, even though we’re not in the clear yet, we now have a road map for where we’re going - all thanks to vet leaders like Drs. Harris and Haag.