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During these crazy crazy times of COVID-19, vets and clinics across the world are all struggling to figure out how to balance safety to staff, clients and society, while ensuring animals get the care they need. This isn’t an easy task, especially when many clinics are experiencing members of the public that are ignoring quarantine instructions, becoming angry or irate with waits or changes, or just displaying ignorance and stupidity all around.

As clinics are facing closing, there will be a financial hit. Clinics that were struggling before and don’t have the financial reserve to weather this storm may close. People will lose their jobs. Other clinics will be over-run with too much work that they can’t handle as owners cannot get into their vet.

Some clinics are finding that in this beginning stage of isolation, owners are at home, staring at their pets, and noticing things they never noticed before, or never had the time to address before. Other clients are just bored sitting at home, and are using their pet as an ‘essential excuse’ to get out of the house.

Either way, whether your clinic is struggling, being overwhelmed, or hasn’t been affected yet… every clinic is facing a choice: ADAPT OR DIE!

As clinic owners, managers, and associate vets, there are many things that we can do in this day of technology that can further the profession in general, and also help clinics adapt to survive this crisis.
Consider these KICK ASS TIPS For COVID-19 For Your Clinic:
two people separated by a cartoon virus
Don’t wait for your area to be hit and then struggle to adapt! Get a plan in place and get ahead of the situation. This will allow for your staff to adapt and get the new systems in place and running BEFORE it becomes essential, allowing for the ‘well that didn’t work… we need a different plan for that’ situations.

This will not only fulfill your social responsibility, but will help your clinic stay open LONGER- as your staff are less likely to get sick, or less likely to be afraid of getting sick and passing it on to loved ones!

Progressive clinics are having no clients coming into the clinics, are doing drop-offs and pick-ups outside, and phone conversations. Progressive clinics are also separating staff into at least two cohorts, so that if one cohort becomes sick, the other can still function.

Limit non-essential services for now. Spays/neuters can wait, dentals can wait. Final puppy vaccines can be done as house calls or drop-offs. Yearly vaccines can wait. 6 monthly blood tests can wait. You can push these services to when you are back up and running, and therefore not LOSE this income, but just RESCHEDULE it. Make sure you are rescheduling with owners for a time later on, as this is more likely to retain them. How you ‘SELL’ this rescheduling is key to how the owners FEELS about the rescheduling, so have a team meeting on what will be said! 

In this age of technology, so many follow up appointments, conversations, and some less critical cases can be managed over the phone. With clients where you have a relationship, do the initial conversation/consultation over SKYPE, FACEBOOK, ZOOM, whatever. Almost everyone has a smart-phone these days that can work some sort of video technology.

For cases that need bloodwork or limited tests, you can organize a team of two nurses to go out to the house, collect the animal from the front door, collect blood/urine/feces/ear swabs/skin swabs outside in the backyard, on the front step, etc. and bring the samples back to the clinics.

Nurses can also drop of medications, food, litter, etc.

If the animal is ill, or needs a full physical exam based on your video-call assessment, you can either send out nurses to collect the animal and bring them into the clinic, or you can have the owners come to the parking lot and take the animal inside at that point.

Whether you are having clients drop off an animal at your door, or whether you are dropping off medications/food/litter/etc. to owners, embrace the drop off!

Be an active part of the team! Come up with solutions such as arranging for phone/video consults- and show your boss how to sell these consults to clients and still make money- STILL CHARGE FOR THESE CONSULTS!- By stepping up and creating solutions that help the business survive this crisis, you will display your incredible VALUE!

BE CREATIVE! Think of ways that you can change and adapt your practice to your clients needs. Depending on where you are, and the type/age/demographic of your cliental, the specific strategy will change, but be part of that change!

BE FLEXIBLE: Take this opportunity to show your boss that you can be part of the team, and be flexible to hours, needs and roles. Be supportive of initiatives and help get the staff on board. Everyone is going to be affected by this crisis, and by being flexible and helpful, you will continue to provide value to your boss, and will show loyalty. This of course, you can use as an example of why you are awesome, when you negotiate in the future once things settle down.

Your younger staff are going to be more creative and more up to date on the available resources and possible actions your clinic can take. This is NOT a time to have your EGO raging. LISTEN to your employees, and take their suggestions and ideas on board! ADAPT your clinic to this crisis and display a calm, organized and efficient front to your clients. The longer you can stay open and provide services to your clients, the more loyal they will become.

Think about it… in 6 months do you want your clients saying “well my vet just closed and left me with no care for my poor Fluffy”, or do you want your clients saying “My vet was amazing! They knew I was high risk so they came out to the house and saw Fluffy outside so I was protected. They then were able to do the tests they needed, and then returned with not only medications but with Fluffy’s food, and they even remembered that he loves liver treats and brought those along too!” If you have elderly clients you could even offer to bring them essentials (toilet paper, food, etc.). Adapt to be part of their overall health-care team in this time, don’t limit your sights.

Word of mouth is one of the biggest driving forces in how clients pick a vet, and you know from this crisis people are going to be changing vets… be the clinic that was reliable, supportive, calm, and adaptive to the needs of your clients. Don’t be the clinic that did nothing, and then suddenly had to close when all of your staff are sick at once.


Just because you are doing phone consults or video consults, doesn’t mean they are free. Drop offs can have a small delivery fee associated if needed.

Recognize and embrace that your clinic will lose money during this time, but prioritize maintaining staff employment and hopefully ‘break even’. Companies that show loyalty to staff as much as possible during this time are ones that will get that loyalty back from employees when times are good again. It is the businesses job to try to protect employees, and hopefully while the economy was good you created an ‘emergency fund’ for your business. This is the time to use it! You can re-purpose staff to different tasks. Maybe take this time to re-vamp your social media presence that is important in today’s world, and have a staff member work on this. Maybe re-arrange/fix up parts of your clinic that have been on the ‘To-Do’ list for ages. Maybe time time for staff training. Keep your staff working and busy, but try to keep them there! The LOYALTY you show to your staff in this time, will pay you back with dividends!
KICK ASS Recommendations for Social Distancing:
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1. No clients into the clinic unless completely necessary.
2. Car Consults: owners drive up and CALL- pets are retrieved from the car and the consult is held over the phone with the owners in the car.
3. Cohort Staff: Split your staff into at least 2 teams, so if one team goes down, the other can still function.
4. Non-essential services are postponed. Emergencies only.
5. Limit staff in clinics. You can have other staff either take vacation, or have them perform other duties (such as food/medication drop-offs or collecting samples from peoples’ houses)
6. House-calls limit social interaction- if you are going into everyone’s houses this is just as bad as them coming into the clinic! They hand you fluffy out the door, and you do your exam, take your samples, and communicate over the phone.
7. Any ‘at-risk’ individuals should have a friend/family bring their pet.
8. If clients MUST come into the clinic, they go directly from the car to a consult room.
9. No cash payments.
10. Disinfect often and wash your hands.

Honestly- vets have been doing this for years! Pretend that everyone is either a Parvo puppy, a Kennel Cough dog or an FIV/URT cat! It’s not that hard!
Written by Dr. Ann Herbst BSc, DVM

Published March 21st, 2020

Advocate for yourself, you are the only one that will!

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