The pandemic has challenged our veterinary professionals, but we are persevering. Our veterinary team at Southwest Vet is deeply committed to providing the best service possible for you and your pet, and these difficult times have not altered this commitment. Many adverse issues have contributed to veterinary overload, and we would like to set your mind at ease by presenting the steps we are taking to address these circumstances.

COVID-19 protocols decreased veterinary care efficiency

When the shutdown occurred, our veterinary team had to adapt quickly to institute COVID-19 safety protocols, to ensure that our staff and clients were as safe as possible. These actions, although necessary, significantly limited our efficiency and productivity. 

  • Curbside care — Curbside appointments allowed fewer people inside the clinic, making social distancing recommendations easier to follow. However, this process was much more time-consuming than a regular in-person veterinary visit. Our veterinary technicians spent more time going back and forth from the parking lot to the examination room, and conversations had to be conducted by phone, also contributing to the longer visit time. 
  • Sanitization — Our team members were required to thoroughly sanitize each examination room and all its surfaces between each appointment, further contributing to productivity issues. 

The protocols introduced because of COVID-19 led to a significant decrease in the time available to care for pet patients. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Census of Veterinarians and Veterinary Practice Owners, veterinarians saw fewer patients per hour, and average productivity declined by almost 25% in 2020, compared with productivity in 2019.

COVID-19 caused a veterinary backlog

During the pandemic’s earliest months, because we could not see the usual number of patients, we were forced to care only for pets needing urgent attention. This meant postponing routine appointments (e.g., vaccinations, spay and neuter procedures, and wellness care). Now that protocols are not as stringent as during the shutdown, we are doing our best to address the backlog of postponed non-urgent appointments, and to see new patients. At times, we are still overwhelmed as each day we attempt to provide routine care for all our patients. 

Veterinary practices experienced an uptick in cases

According to national analytical data, U.S. veterinary practices scheduled about 4.5% more appointments in 2020 than in 2019. In an average year, this would be considered healthy and encouraging growth but, combined with the productivity and backlog challenges, this increase only contributed to veterinary overload. 

Veterinary staffing shortages preceded the pandemic

Veterinary medicine staffing shortages were challenging before the pandemic began, and COVID-19 did nothing to abate these issues. 

  • Illness — Because of the nature of the caregiving profession, our veterinary professionals had to be present in the clinic during the lockdown, which often led to staff members’ COVID-19 exposure. Whether they were ill with COVID-19 or another condition, our employees are the heart of our organization, and we will always ensure they receive the necessary recovery time when they become ill. 
  • Burnout — Veterinary medicine is stressful and demanding, and many veterinary professionals experience burnout (i.e., feeling overwhelmed by compassion fatigue, poor work-life balance, and the burden of veterinary school loan debt). To manage burnout, some veterinary professionals cut back the number of hours they work, and some leave the field entirely, opting for a less-demanding career. 

Our veterinary team is taking steps to ensure that your pet is seen as quickly as possible

These issues have led to increased wait times for a veterinary visit, but our team is taking steps to ensure that your pet receives care as quickly as possible.

  • In-person appointments — On June 7, 2021, we began offering in-person appointments again. We continue to enforce social distancing and mask wearing protocols while you are inside the clinic, and you can still opt for a curbside appointment.
  • Virtual visits — We now offer telemedicine consults for certain issues, so you can schedule a virtual visit with your pet’s regular veterinarian, to avoid coming to the clinic.
  • Technician visits — Our highly trained veterinary technicians can perform nail trims, anal gland expressions, blood draws, and injections, which allows our veterinarians to focus on caring for patients who require more specialization.

How you can help our veterinary team

Caring for your pet requires a team effort. This means you can help our veterinary team as we attempt to mitigate our veterinary overload challenges by: 

  • Practicing patience — Be patient with our staff members,  as we try to schedule an appointment time that works best for you. 
  • Planning ahead — When scheduling your pet’s routine wellness care (e.g., vaccinations, heartworm tests), call as far in advance as possible to ensure that we can schedule your pet for an appointment time that works for you.
  • Being perceptive — Watch your pet closely for subtle signs of  medical issues. Schedule an appointment as soon as they exhibit troubling signs (e.g., loss of appetite, lethargy, inconsistent litter box use), so we can diagnose an illness in its early stage, and avoid a veterinary emergency.

COVID-19 hit everyone hard, and we ask for your patience as we strive to mitigate its adverse effects. As COVID-19 cases decrease, we hope that veterinarian burnout cases will ease, as well. And, as the world slowly returns to normal, we hope our staff members remain healthy, to keep our clinic open and our appointments as scheduled. Thank you for your continued support and understanding.

To make a wellness appointment for your pet, contact our team at Southwest Vet, and let us schedule a time that works best for you.