Healthcare providers are going through hell right now, and have done for two years. But very similar reasons also explain what is happening in veterinary medicine. It explains why you may have difficulties getting into your vet office, or a veterinarian emergency room. When you factor in that, here at Compassionate Animal Care, we only have a small team and one doctor, there is only so much we can do. We do not have much hope of finding another doctor with these staff shortages.
So, I wanted to share this with you. The post below the video was written and shared by a veterinarian friend of mine, and states things very well. I have also shared the video about the issues facing human healthcare providers that started this conversation. Even if you don’t watch the video about our healthcare workers, please read what’s below it…it may explain the issues with veterinary care right now.
Please be kind to each other.
Dr. Lora Schelle
Compassionate Animal Care
This is a veterinary response to a video put out by ZDogg MD recently talking about human healthcare – video below (note: occasional adult language in video).
The Great Resignation
What is Happening in Veterinary Medicine?
What is happening in veterinary medicine? I mean really, it’s impossible to have your pet seen, when you do call it’s several days to weeks (sometimes even months) to get in for a simple issue, and the emergency rooms are taking forever and sometimes shutting down! How can they even do that?? If you will bear with me I would like to break this down for you.
At the start of the pandemic, most veterinary hospitals and clinics were forced to close or only see emergent issues. This had multiple effects. Small business owners could not afford to keep the numbers of staff on payroll. Many people left the industry or changed jobs because they couldn’t afford the break in pay, or the loss that came with unemployment (keep in mind many technicians and reception staff work paycheck to paycheck, they do not get paid an exorbitant amount of money, and most veterinarians are overwhelmed with debt and cannot take a pay cut, although yes the government did eventually put a freeze on student loan payments). So many clinics lost a number of staff and went to a skeleton crew.
During this time a number of other things happened.
Pets that were due for routine care such as vaccines, spay and neuter procedures, dental procedures, mass removals, things like that could not be seen because the government would not allow us to operate in many places. Spay and neuter clinics closed for a period of time. Pets that should have had basic care did not get it for a time, and those appointments build up and up.
Some pets got sick. Unwanted pregnancies happened. More puppies and kittens came into the world. Simple problems became much larger because our patients could not get basic care. Many clinics went to curbside to protect their staff and clients from this disease. People became frustrated that we could not get their pets in, or that they could not come in with their pets.
Clients yelled at front desk staff and technicians in anger. Some of those clients were fired, leaving them without basic veterinary care on any level (because nobody deserves to be abused). CSR’s and techs quit because they didn’t want to deal with the abuse.
Then we were permitted to open again, and provide basic care again. So we did. But we didn’t have the same numbers of staff because some of them left, so we had to try to hire more staff, which didn’t exist in a lot of places, or was untrained and slower than the experienced people. Most places remained curbside, again to protect their staff.
This is what happens when a pet shows up to any clinic doing curbside appointments.
- Owner calls to check in because the door is locked. (most clinics have only a couple of phone lines, and when everyone is calling at once to get in this can take a very long time)
- Tech goes out to get the pet
- Pet gets vitals +/- exam by vet at that time and put into a kennel (many clinics have limited kennel space and can only accommodate so many patients at once)
- Doctor has to call owner to get history and make a diagnostic plan (often times this involves waiting for the phones to be free or calling multiple times because people don’t answer)
- Diagnostic tests are performed
- Doctor has to call back to discuss diagnostics and treatment plan (see point 4)
- Treatment plan is carried out
- Pet is returned to owner
- Discharge notes and medications need to be explained to owner, often either in the parking lot or over the phone
- Client has to pay for visit
These steps take much longer than the previous method of client comes into building, checks in, tech gets history, goes into room, doctor does exam and talks to client, does diagnostics then goes back into room to discuss findings and treatment plan, treatments are done, tech discharges patient and gives meds. and owner pays on the way out.
Ok, so now we have a system that is nowhere near as efficient, techs that are running their buns off in and out of the building in blinding heat, or rain, or snow, or freezing cold, clients that are frustrated that they cannot come into the building or have to wear a mask, and veterinary team members getting yelled at more and more.
What else has happened during that time?
Remember all of the pets that didn’t get their vaccines and routine procedures? They are overdue now and the owners are amping to get in. Some of those animals are getting sick and ending up in the emergency room.
Technicians, veterinarians, and CSR’s are less and less available to work, as they are getting sick, or their families are sick, or their kids can’t go to school and there’s nobody to take them, or they are getting severe heart, lung, or neurological issues after surviving covid and can no longer work. Or they are dying from covid. So there are now more appointments needed, taking longer than ever, and fewer people than ever able to help. And the patients that need their wellness care also want to get in. There aren’t nearly enough hours in the day.
The emergency clinics are there though, right? They can at least help! Oh absolutely. Except they are struggling with staffing issues the same as everyone else. There are 5 emergency clinics in a 50 mile radius of the city where I live. That should be enough! And normally it is. Except when a veterinarian goes down like I did, due to covid over Christmas, and my entire hospital had to convert to urgent care for the weekend because there was no veterinarian available to work.
So that puts pressure on the other hospitals. And when 4 vets leave work due to covid? I’m sure you can do the math. The ICU’s are over run with patients that cannot get in to see their vets. The technicians and vets working overnights can only handle so many patients. The ICU’s are shutting down and diverting patients to other clinics. And on and on and on.
Ok so now we have longer appointment times leading to fewer appointments available, fewer veterinary staff, more appointments needed, clinics closing due to illness, and some very stressed and angry people because they are worried about their pets and can’t do anything about it.
Let’s add one more thing to that mix shall we?
How about the covid puppies and kittens that were adopted or purchased during the pandemic. Those pets stayed home with their owners while they worked from home. Some of them literally were never left alone. Then the owners went back to work. And these pets completely lost their minds. Some of them are injured, sick from eating stupid things, clients are freaking out, and there is nowhere to take their pets. It’s a total disaster and there is no end in sight.
I beg of my pet owning population the following: please, be kind to us. We are doing our best. Most of us are working overtime every day for no additional pay. We are tired, we are stressed. Many of us are sick. We suffer from depression and anxiety in high rates. We want to help. It hurts us to say no to you.
Please plan ahead. If you know your pets wellness is coming up book it weeks in advance. If your pet does not have a true emergency, please do not take it to the emergency clinic, and if you don’t know then please call. If you have an emergency please call to see if your nearest clinic can take you. Plan to be there awhile, bring a book, or a tablet, and snacks or whatever you will need.
Communicate with us. Tell us what you need. If you have something urgent you need to do let us know. We can often accommodate keeping your pet, if needed, to let you do that thing. Say thank you. It is the single most important thing that gets me through my day, a simple thank you.
And consider pet insurance. If you do not have thousands of dollars to drop in an emergency, please consider insurance. It is a literal life saver. Don’t talk to me about the cost of veterinary medicine here. Veterinary care workers get a fraction of the pay of human health care workers on every single level. Health care costs money. Nobody would ask you to do your job for free.
To my veterinary workers: please take care of yourselves. You cannot take care of your patients if you don’t take care of yourself. I love you all.