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Adjusting to Our New Normal

This article originally appeared at MWI Animal Health in print and online!

As we have all moved through this coronavirus pandemic, practices have been forced to adapt to environment demands, adopt new practices to conform to customer-accepted needs, and live in our “new norm” of today’s society.

When the coronavirus pandemic began, we all started to talk between practices often asking “What are you doing?” or “Have you gone curbside yet?” The initial outbreak created uncertainty for all, fear in some and opportunity for others. It is in these times of crisis or epidemics that we, as humans, tend to deal with these four things:

  1. a decreased ability to focus on things beyond the epidemic;

  2. a feeling by some of less comfort around others;

  3. diminished ability to think more than a few days into the future; and

  4. loss of focus on core fundamental values and strategic “anchors” of our practices that move organizations forward.

Survival instinct often kicks into gear in times of uncertainty and long-term perspective gets lost in the chaos. But the unique thing is, we are incredibly capable of adapting to any situation no matter how problematic it is. So for just about all of us, we went to curbside service to help reduce risk of viral transmission. Some even began two or three staff group rotations so that if one member came down with COVID, the whole staff wouldn’t be quarantined and the practice not totally shut down for 14 days.

There were many other procedural and logistic opportunities seized such as spaced out scheduling, only one person entering the building per animal post curbside service ceasing, increased sanitation of customer facility touching points, and increased telemedicine platforms from basic FaceTime to legit telemedicine software platforms.

Some of our current challenges are occurring because there can be conflicting messages coming from government officials. So much of the day-to-day flow and burden of deciding in-clinic logistics falls on you and the clinic deciding what risks to take. Current goals are reduction of viral spread of disease but, most importantly, actions needed to help make sure we can stay open for business.

What current opportunities exist to help you communicate your action plans to your team? What opportunities exist for you to stay abreast of health official rules within your community, county and state so that you and your veterinary team can make the most informed decisions on how to put in place the best public health practices for your clinic and your clients.

Defining practice needs for public health is a team approach

We are a necessary business—people need veterinary care for their production animals, companion animals, or animals that people need to complete the duties of their job or business. So, what does that look like for your practice now?

Have your reviewed this with your entire team and sought their input on level of public health practices they would like to see? You, as a leader in your practice, have an opinion on public health needs procedures, but your team has an opinion as well. And we as leaders need to allow them to voice their opinion on the practice needs for public health.

There are many differing opinions on what is needed now in terms of public health practices in our businesses, and not one person has all the answers, and not all answers fit a whole region, state or nation. However, our focus should be on what our customers want. Those desires and needs will be all over the board as well, but we want to ask ourselves, “Are we covering the basic needs? Can some approaches then be more individualistic in client needs? Do some approaches to public health need to be a blanket approach?”

We ask ourselves these things in regards to scheduling, elective versus non-elective needs, sanitation of rooms, etc., number of people allowed in office per patient, sanitation station needs and locations, HR needs in handling team members and their travel, temperatures taken of clients on entry, mask requirements of staff and clients or not, and much more than I have mentioned here.

The key is, have you talked about these things with your entire team? Have you sought some input from them? Have you developed your fluid plan, communicated it well, and adjusted it virtually every week as needed? And have you recommunicated it to your team like a broken record? And how have you let your clients know the precautions you may or may not have taken?

At this point in time, many people have no concerns, and many people have great concerns along with having a super-heightened sense of spatial awareness. And even when the pandemic passes, some may continue to have an aversion to being near other people that might resonate in them for years. Are you addressing the diverse needs of your customers?

Our Number 1 goal is to be educated on guidelines, communicate routinely the fluid issues and challenges, and do the best we can to keep our people and our clients safe and healthy. We are doing so while keeping our doors open to serve the needs of our awesome customers, all of whom have different emotions on how we approach public health safety in our practices.

In times of crisis, we can see reorganization within our walls of how we do things. In early stages we may resist the new reality, or adapting to change. Change is uncomfortable for all of us, but required for sustainability of our practices. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for a complete and total surrender to illogical approaches for your practice. Or a call to submit to all procedures recommended on a mass scale without understanding your practice, your geographic region, and the nature of your business. But I am advocating for taking a good look at how we do things, what opportunities exist for us to better serve the diverse needs of our clients, and how do we communicate those things to our teams and our clients.

We all would like to go back to Valentine’s Day 2020, hit the restart button and skip having this virus enter our lives. But we can’t, and it’s not going away. However, there are still leadership opportunities that exist, protocols to adjust in order to adapt to our new normal, and silver linings to search for and find!

Don’t lose focus on your practice’s core values and strategic anchors in the chaos. Stay rooted in them, while looking beyond the crisis for practice opportunities that exist to help better serve your team and your clients.

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