31/12/2019 seems like only yesterday. Many people spend this day reflecting on the previous 12 months, and planning the next. At midnight, fireworks exploded over our heads, we hugged and clinked glasses with our nearest and dearests. Yes, we were blissfully unaware of what 2020 had in store, not only for us but for the whole world.
The months in lockdown have passed quickly for me, but I know this hasn’t been the case for everyone. September 2020 is slowly creeping upon us and yet, normality still seems so far away.
Many people haven’t left their house, for work in months. My sister-in-law started a job at the beginning of the year, and she still hasn’t been to the office, or met her co-workers in person.
I feel for everyone who has been affected by Coronavirus. This tragic illness has affected people in many ways, including through illness, loss of loved ones, loss of work and income, loss of sociability and loss of important events, such as weddings and time with family.
I think it’s accurate to say that most people in the veterinary industry, feared that work would dry up quickly. With so many people losing their income and being forced to stay home, this wasn’t an unreasonable assumption. Of course, I think the majority of us would agree, that the workload actually increased ten fold! I saw clinic phones ringing off the hook, general practice clinics booking out weeks in advance, increased numbers of routine vaccinations and lots more puppy and kitten checks! With so much more time on their hands, were clients looking at their geriatric pet and thinking ‘we should get those lumps checked’ or ‘Rover’s still limping, let’s get him seen’!! Perhaps clients who had not lost their jobs, suddenly found themselves with more disposal income and a vet visit was a legitimate reason to leave their house. Whatever the reasons, vet clinics in Melbourne got really busy, really quickly! I believe a similar surge in cases occurred in the UK as well. Stage 4 lockdown was initiated in the UK quite early on, in the pandemic. This caused the closure of all general practices for everything but emergencies. Melbourne managed to avoid stage 4 lockdown in the first isolation period but wasn’t so lucky the second time. Although we now find ourselves in stage 4 lockdown, our general practices have not been forced to close, as they were in the UK.
Many clinics implemented a ‘split team’ system, which simply split their staff into two or more teams. The idea being that if a member of team A came into contact with COVID-19, the business could continue to operate with team B, who had not been in contact with team A.
I completely understand the reasoning for dividing the teams and for many months I worked as part of my little cohort know as A-team, very original I know!! However, as usual, there were some drawbacks! Working in smaller groups, usually meant working from opening to closing, and for several consecutive days. I believe some clinics even managed a 7 day-on/ 7 day-off roster. Sure, the 7 days off would be great, but I imagine the 7 days on to be brutal! I can only imagine what I would be like to work with by the 4th day, let along the 7th!
As an industry, we also saw some dramatic changes to our clinical practices, such as, contactless consultations, mandatory wearing of masks/face shields, prohibited hospital visitations for owners and probably the saddest of all, restriction of the number of people allowed at euthanasia’s. These kind of changes can have profound effects on the mental well-being of our amazing vets, nurses and support staff. It is no surprise that many of us are feeling overwhelmed, tired, drained and burnt out. If there was ever a time for a relaxing holiday, it is probably now!!
There have however, been changes that some employees hope stay implemented, well after this pandemic is over. I am curious to know what changes your clinic made and which you hope stick around for good? Personally I like the electronic changes my clinic made. We have used far less paper by simply switching to online consent forms, invoices, client information etc. I hope this change continues post COVID. Let me know your thoughts below!