Written by Pamela Weber Collier, RVT
Clinical & Extern Coordinator/Technician Learning and Development Specialist
An open letter to pet parents everywhere during this global health crisis: Be kind, be patient, and be proactive, please
Veterinary practices are essential businesses and our medical teams have been working very hard to provide healthcare for your beloved pets, both before the COVID-19 pandemic began and beyond.
Please be Understanding
Our hospitals (and all veterinary clinics) have had to develop, adopt, adapt and roll-out additional safety measures to ensure our teams remain healthy and COVID-19 free, so we can continue to provide care for sick and injured pets. If members of our medical team get sick, our whole hospital is impacted as we test other team members, deep clean the hospital and attempt to halt a spread of disease. We do these things to keep our team safe, and so we can remain open to provide the care your pets need.
Many veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and hospital team members (especially those in emergency practices) have seen a marked increase in the number of pets who need our services. Local animal hospitals/clinics are dealing with limited staffing and limited capacity due to effects of the pandemic.
Shortage of PPE and Veterinary Staff
The veterinary industry is dealing with shortages of equipment, medications, PPE and more as our counterparts on the human side of medicine continue to fight the pandemic. Veterinary allocations are always secondary to the needs of our human counterparts and we do not begrudge their need.
The veterinary industry as a whole is also facing a severe staffing shortage. We are trying to hire for many positions to support our hospitals, but there just aren’t enough veterinary professionals out there.
The Same Stresses as Everyone Else
All of our hard-working team members have been affected by the pandemic in the same ways you have been. We are all struggling with childcare in the face of school closures, we are all fearful of getting sick or passing the virus on to a loved one or co-worker, and we are all dealing with the stress of unemployment or furloughs, and trying to cope in this strange new and uncertain world we find ourselves in.
Our ER’s are Overwhelmed
While veterinary medicine and our teams are still here and will continue to be here for you and your furry family members if they are sick or injured, we ask for your understanding and patience. Your access to our hospitals and staff will likely be different for quite some time. The days of us being able to accommodate a quick “fit in” appointment or see you on short notice for a non-life threatening issue are no longer possible for the foreseeable future.
Emergency hospitals are seeing unprecedented caseloads as we take up the slack in areas where family practices are at capacity.
Please understand that there will be a long wait if you come to an ER. Please understand that we must treat those cases with the most life threatening conditions first. If your pet had been hit by a car or was in heart failure, you would want them tended to before the pet with an ear infection…..remember this and be thankful that your family member is not in the condition that warrants us to rush them into treatment. Triage is not a game you want to win.
Please be Proactive
Critical life-threatening emergencies should come straight to us. If you have time, please call ahead to let us know when you’re coming.
Less urgent pet emergencies can be handled at your regular vet or by appointment at your preferred specialty referral hospital.
If your pet is not having a critical emergency, we encourage you to first try making an appointment with your primary care veterinarian if they’re open and able to get you in. Alternatively, you can always use our ER in a non-critical emergency, but please recognize that we triage cases as they come in and there will likely be a long wait for your pet to be seen. Plan ahead and pack snacks, face masks, hand sanitizer, games, reading materials, a power cord, and lots of water.
Please be Kind
Please appreciate the veterinary professionals who are working long hours in trying conditions to make sure your sweet pet has access to the healthcare he or she needs. While the majority of our clients are grateful we are still here caring for their pets, it is demoralizing and unacceptable for any of us to be verbally abused, yelled at, or threatened for simply trying to do our jobs in an already difficult time. It is happening on a daily basis with increasing frequency and is contributing to the devastating emotional toll my profession has endured for years.
Bottom line, veterinary professionals continue to serve our communities tirelessly during this time of global crisis. Please do your part to help us help you and yours by being understanding and patient with your veterinary healthcare team, and proactive in managing the wait times for yourself and your family. We are all in this together, and the only way we’ll get through this is by extending some compassion and kindness to each other.