Find Purpose In Your Path: How to Refocus Your Veterinary Practice
During the entire COVID-19 pandemic, veterinary practices reacted to the health threat to their team and clients, rather than being proactive. Playing this catch-up game has caused staff morale to tank, because teams always felt behind in learning and implementing efficient protocols and workflows. Pairing the challenges veterinary professionals faced at the height of the pandemic with the current struggles has led to overworked, understaffed veterinary practices around the country. As valuable team members flee the profession for higher wages, better work-life balance, improved benefits, and less mental and emotional strain, our industry is hurting.
Despite these hurdles, “normal” times are ahead for the veterinary profession, and you can best prepare your team by planning in advance to return to your practice’s new normal as people become vaccinated and mask mandates are dropped. Including every team member in your decisions regarding practice protocols, schedules, and workflows going forward will go a long way toward maintaining morale and retaining your star players. As the world reopens, ease the transition to the new normal with the following tips.
#1: Include your entire team in major decisions
Your veterinary team has had so little control over the past year, they are likely suffering from that mindset. With no control over their personal life, mask wearing, and seeing loved ones in person, to little professional sway over double-booked appointment slots, irritated and irrational clients, and pandemic puppies galore, your team has reached their limit. Give them back some control over their daily lives by including them in your major practice decisions. As more businesses open their doors and shed mask mandates for vaccinated—or unvaccinated—clients, your team again has to adjust to major change.
Before flinging your doors open to the public, get your team involved, and ask how they feel going forward. They may be more comfortable with a slow transition that allows into your hospital only one client per pet, who are quickly escorted to an exam room, rather than an overflowing lobby. Some team members may choose to continue to wear masks when in close quarters with clients. Let them decide how best to care for their own health, rather than making a blanket statement for all team members. By allowing your team members to voice their opinion during such a critical time, they’ll feel like they’re truly heard and in control of your reopening.
#2: Check in with your team’s mental health
There’s no doubt that the year has been tough, and veterinary medicine is not an easy career path regardless. Now, more than ever, your team needs to band together and support one another. Have a one-on-one meeting with each team member to discuss their emotional and mental state, and search for clues that indicate burnout and compassion fatigue. Signs that a person is suffering from poor mental health include:
- Being unable to switch off or delegate tasks
- Neglecting physical and emotional needs
- Avoiding social interaction
- Sacrificing family, friends, and hobbies
- Becoming emotionally blunt, cynical, and intolerant
- Suffering job performance
- Changing behavior
- Appearing dejected or constantly exhausted
If you notice that a team member is struggling, provide support. Such resources as Not One More Vet can help with burnout, compassion fatigue, and mental health issues that are all too common in the veterinary field.
#3: Determine the practices that worked best for your hospital
During such an upheaval in your typical daily workflows, you may have discovered some practices that worked well while you were providing curbside care, and wish to continue them after reopening. For example, you may have found that offering parking lot prescription and food pickups worked well for your practice, especially if you’re using a hospital app that accepts virtual payment. Or, rotating your team members through a remote position, such as digital coordinator or social media manager, may have helped boost mental health and morale by providing relief from the physical and emotional toll of being in the hospital all the time. Poll your team on what practices worked best for your hospital and workflows, and consider keeping those measures in place.
If your team is struggling because they are overworked and understaffed, look into relief staffing services to help bolster a skeleton crew. A highly trained and skilled veterinary professional who can jump in and be ready to work at your practice will not only boost your team’s morale, but also relieve some of their burden. Contact our Veterinary System Services team for more information on relief staffing.
Brad’s love for animals and exposure to working with them has come in many forms, and spanned decades. From volunteer work, that includes 5 years with the Denver Dumb Friends League, to countless hours being a victim for Search and Rescue dogs, or a chew toy for police dogs, he has a passion for working with animals. In college, Brad worked for a small, three-doctor practice cleaning kennels. Before starting VSS, he spent almost 10 years as an inventory manager for one of the state’s largest animal hospitals. He has seen this industry from many angles.