For starters, we would like to thank you for your loyalty and patience during the pandemic. We’ve hung onto two of Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital’s core values—we want to be here, and we will communicate transparent quality for our patients—during this trying time for us all, including staff, clients, and patients. But, we know things are different, especially from our clients’ point of view, and we want to explain some reasons why, for example, you’ve had to wait longer than usual for our care.
Reasons why clients have to wait
Veterinary professionals are considered essential workers., which has required many changes and different priorities to keep our practices open, and to continue caring for our clients and pets as they deserve.
- Safety is now top priority — Staying open during the pandemic has meant a change in prioritizing our protocols, with safety the top concern, despite its impact on productivity. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) COVID Impacts Survey reports that average client wait times doubled in 2020 compared with 2019, with 25% of practices reporting two to three times longer average wait times, compared with normal (i.e., before the pandemic) times.
- Appointments take longer — Safety changes, such as pet owners waiting in the car instead of the exam room, involve many more steps, causing each appointment to take longer. Telehealth veterinary visits have helped, but there are obvious limitations to how much we can do during a telehealth visit. The CDC also continually adjusts their recommendations for stocking supplies, personnel sanitation, facility cleaning and maintenance, and quarantine regulations and vaccinations, many of which have added to the backlog of tasks.
- Staff shortages are worse than ever — Staff illness and shortages—in a profession already stretched too thin with too few veterinary team members—and outside-of-work strains, such as childcare difficulties, have also caused a backlog in appointments. Worse, the staff shortages have led to burnout and caused more staff to leave the profession.
- More pets needing more care — Many people found the pandemic, when they were spending more time at home because their workplaces were closing, the perfect time to adopt a pet, and shelters were emptied—a wonderful thing. But more pets adopted—again, a good thing—meant more pets, who were once in shelters and other adoption facilities, needing veterinary care.
- Reduced services — At the same time in the veterinary industry, some hospitals temporarily closed to formulate new policies and procedures, and others changed to seeing only emergencies. With fewer veterinary practices to accept the same number of patients, the backlog grew so large that clients have had to wait weeks and sometimes months for an appointment, or take their pet to an emergency practice, where wait times are also long.
Is there a solution for clients and pets?
The veterinary industry is already leading with cases of staff compassion fatigue and burnout, partly because veterinary professionals are so empathetic. Veterinary practices are now trying, despite the pandemic changes, to prioritize staff members’ physical, mental, and emotional health.
- Expectations — This is not an actual solution, but changing expectations could help. We ask that clients partner with us by adjusting their expectations, as we deal with the extra workflow complications, such as curbside care, which prolongs communication time with back and forth inefficiencies, extra sanitation and hygiene, and other extra safety procedures for staff, clients, and pets, all resulting in potential delays. Know that we are committed to your pet’s wellness and care, and striving to implement innovative operational and veterinary care and treatment methods.
- Options — It goes without saying that meaningful personal connections with you and your pet are extremely important, and some of our innovations involve different kinds of appointments, including:
- An appointment in our clinic backyard
- A Zoom curbside appointment where our team members guide you through a visit while you remain in your vehicle
- A telemedicine appointment from the comfort of your home
We encourage you to let us prepare you ahead of time for these atypical appointment formats, and ensure you are comfortable with the process. Also, our online store, Vetsource, is available 24/7 for your pet’s food and medications.
While avoiding COVID-19’s ramifications is impossible, we can—and have, and will continue—our efforts to hold up the veterinary profession. While we cannot currently perform like we did prior to the pandemic, we will continue to practice solid team support and good hygiene and sanitation in the clinic, and to employ new, safe, procedures for client and patient care.
Contact us at Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital to keep abreast of all we are doing to get through this trying time—most importantly, maintaining and building on our relationships with clients, and providing the highest standard of care to our patients.