As an “essential business” in the world of COVID-19, my fellow veterinarians and I are privileged to be working. And, with the spike in pet additions (both adoptions and breeder purchases – folks are craving affection, someone they can safely hug and snuggle with), our vet practices are very, very busy. Between this surge in new furry patients and the additional precautions and procedures due to COVID, vet visits are anything but “normal” right now.
So, if you’re headed to your vet’s office, keep these tips in mind:
Call before you go. Most practices are doing curbside service – meaning clients call the office from their car when they arrive, and then a team member comes out to retrieve patient(s) and take them inside for their vet visit. The exam is then performed by the vet, who contacts the owner (still outside of the building) by phone or video chat to discuss the findings and plan. Having done this for some months, most practices are getting into the swing of it, but it can still take some time. And wait times can be anywhere from 30 minutes to even up to 5 hours. It helps to call and share your pet concern, which many times may not require a visit or can even be handled with a telemedical consult (you can get more info on remote vet care here). And if we do recommend that you bring your pet in, we can give you an approximate wait time.
Wear a mask, and answer questions honestly. First rule: no mask, no service. And, if you have or have had COVID-19, or have been exposed to anyone who tested positive, please answer truthfully when asked. It doesn’t mean we won’t treat your pet – we know we won’t be infected with the virus by our patients. But it helps us manage your visit with additional caution.
Stay in your car. We appreciate owners wanting to help, but it breaks social distancing rules. The safety of our staff is of primary importance to us, so as much as we appreciate you wanting to help, please stay in your car. Veterinary technicians are professionals who are trained to safely collect your pet – trust them to do their jobs for you.
Pay with credit or debit only – no cash. It’s much easier to keep check-out sanitary with credit card payments. These can be done with minimal-to-no contact with veterinary team members. At our practices, our veterinary team members have started bringing wireless devices out to clients’ cars, allowing them to view their invoice, read take-home notes, and pay their bill – all with minimal-to-no contact.
Remember that we’re concerned about the virus, too. Like you, we are anxious and stressed, having concerns every day of potentially being infected with this nasty, invisible virus. We worry not only for ourselves, but also for our co-workers, spouses, children, parents, and anyone we regularly come into contact with. We are by no means on the front lines like those in human hospitals, but we have our own line to contend with.
Know that we dislike the social distancing, too…especially during end-of-life situations. When you’ve practiced for a couple decades, as I have, you become very close to families you serve. I’ve given puppies their booster vaccines at 8 weeks of age, and also euthanized that same loved one many years later. It’s a very intimate act – and usually one with a lot of emotion, tears, and hugging (at times I’m as snotty as anyone else in the room). However, during this pandemic, we’ve had to be creative, to do so without close contact (such as using long intravenous lines). It’s distressing for the grieving family, as well as the veterinary team, that we can’t spend time with the family, or provide emotional support (with a hug, or pat on the hand). The relationship with this beloved family member shouldn’t end that way. We really hate it…please know that we do.
Please be patient. Throwing a tantrum isn’t going to help. 98% of the clients we see every day appreciate that we are there and understand that we are trying to figure out how to manage our practices in a different, ever-changing, pandemic world. Then there are the 2% who behave like they’re royalty, as if they should have things their way, can’t understand when and why it isn’t, and then make a scene more extraordinary than a 2-year-old toddler with a loaded diaper and an ear infection. We understand that most pet owners want to be present with their furry baby during an exam – but right now, with COVID-19 protocols being practiced, that is usually impossible. We do our best, even performing video chats to share areas of concern (or accomplishments to be celebrated, like a resolved ear infection) – and we miss the face-to-face, too (see #7). We sincerely welcome respectful, constructive criticism, but yelling, profanity (yes…“cussing”), name-calling, and even the social media slamming won’t help you get into the hospital or get your pet seen quicker. At my practices, such conduct is an effective way to get your pets’ records copied with a kind invitation to find a new vet. My team deserves better. Just behave like your grandmother is watching … that’s all I’m saying.
This pandemic has brought out interesting behaviors and emotions in all of us. But I find it brings out more of the best than worst. Our clients have shown understanding and patience. My team and I have been forced to listen a bit more acutely and find ways to make appointments and exams more succinct – it’s actually made us more efficient. A welcomed ray of sunshine in this crazy storm, for sure. I’ll take it, and with gratitude.