Being a Veterinarian During a PandemicApril 23, 2021
Every year, World Veterinary Day celebrates some aspect of the veterinarian profession. The theme for 2021: Veterinarian response to the COVID-19 crisis. The continuing pandemic challenged our industry in unimaginable ways. But we persevered, adapted, and made it through together.
To celebrate the strength and dedication of our veterinarians during this past year, we’ll let them tell their own stories in their own words:
From a Veterinary Criticalist
“Being an Emergency & Critical Care veterinarian is never easy, but the last year has been a tough one. Luckily, we are accustomed to doing the hard things. When your job requires you to drive to work in a blizzard, you drive to work in a blizzard. This has just been a different type of storm, and we did what we always do: buckled in, showed up, and counted on our colleagues to do the same. I believe most of us would say that this year has been the hardest of our careers, by far. But our job is to be the safety net even when things are lousy, so that is what we did.”
– Danielle Thomas, DVM, DACVECC, Associate Medical Director and Veterinary Criticalist at Mass Vet.
From a Veterinary Oncologist
“The past year has seen our practice become busier than ever before and has forced us to navigate the difficult discussions regarding cancer care with clients we have never met face-to-face. Our team has become closer, more driven, and more creative in this process, and we have remained dedicated to providing the best possible care to clients and patients who continue to trust us despite all of the year’s challenges.”
– Kathleen Tidd, DVM, DACVIM (Medical Oncology), Veterinary Oncologist at The Oncology Service – Springfield.
From a Veterinary Surgeon
“This past year has flooded veterinary teams with challenges, but at the same time has driven unique opportunities for innovation and togetherness. We’ve been forced to re-evaluate how we communicate, but as a team we were able to rapidly adapt and evolve so we can continue to provide unsurpassed care by everyone taking on new responsibilities. By leaning on one another, the COVID crisis has strengthened our team and our ability to tackle any challenges thrown our way!”
– Chris Thomson, DVM, DACVS-SA, Veterinary Surgeon at VSH- North County.
From an Emergency Veterinarian/Acupuncturist
“COVID-19 has created another layer to how we practice veterinary medicine. From increased caseload, to staffing shortages due to COVID quarantine guidelines, to learning how to deliver bad news over the phone, to doing triages in thunderstorms and blizzards. I have seen all of my veterinary team members rise to the challenge and go above and beyond for the love and care of animals. This unprecedented time has proven this is not just a profession to those of us in the field, it is a calling.”
– Molly Hopp, DVM, CVA, Emergency Veterinarian and Veterinary Acupuncturist at WVRC- Waukesha.
From a Veterinary Anesthesiologist
“I am picturing a hazmat suit-laden technician assistant team at Boston West reaching into a VW backseat and pulling a 150-pound Mastiff out of the vehicle onto a stretcher. The owners have readily acknowledged that a family member had been ‘positive.’
As the pandemic settled in last spring and summer and the caseload progressively increased, countless technicians who, despite their lack of being acknowledged as frontline by the local state and federal authorities, never failed to don their protective gear and head straight out into cars of clients who knowingly or unknowingly had been in contact with COVID. They acted as though they had no choice, many times likely afraid but never showing it, putting patients’ and doctors’ needs before their own and even putting the safety of their families at risk. They were the nurses and EMS of the veterinary world and to this day, many of them not vaccinated, still putting up the same courage to get the job done for us doctors, for our clients, and for the patients. These guys were the real heroes, and I speak for all the staff in saying thank you for the 150% you gave and you still give daily.
I am picturing a call center liaison at Mass Vet sitting headset on, engaged in a call, in an empty call center room by himself (normally the room would occupy 20+ call center individuals hustling, bustling; but in the pandemic, it was barely noticeable in the corner of the building.) The veterinary technicians reference guide is open on his desk with sticky notes all over the place as he’s trying to coach a client on the difference between sneezing and coughing, and at the same time trying to reach an Internal Medicine technician or doctor.
I am also picturing opening my Ethos email and seeing the countless requests sent by the front desk staff seeking the “yellow towel with flowers on it” brought in by a client with their pet, somehow, somewhere lost in the shuffle of the emergency, but the only remaining item wanted by that owner because the pet was euthanized. And darn it, that staff was going to find it.
Within the last year, given the crazy increase in our caseload, similar champions were the client liaisons and call center personnel, who must have felt like they were manning a hotline on a minute-by-minute basis. I don’t think we still understand fully why the volume of clients nearly tripled for us, but the level of anxiety in our owners exponentially rose as well. Determining what was an emergency, what was not; sorting out which doctor saw which patient; dealing with financial situations that were beyond incomprehensible, all these things occurred while we doctors were simply doing what we normally did: seeing patients, more of them for sure. It might have felt like we didn’t recognize the effort of the individuals that brought that patient to our table or floor mat, but we did. The call center and front desk staff were the open doors during a time when other doors were shut.
Again, thank you all for keeping us going and getting the patients to us.”
– Andi Looney, DVM, DACVAA, CCRP, DACVSMR, Veterinary Anesthesiologist for our 6 of our Northeast hospitals.
From Another Veterinary Oncologist
“For me, one of the hardest things is that a lot of the concepts we discuss are very abstract and need diagrams and models to help the client understand them, which we can no longer do easily. Having curbside-only service makes it hard to establish a rapport with clients as well, but this has been manageable. I think this year has made me more open minded as to what is able to be accomplished and certainly redefined what a ‘hard year’ means. The uptick in case numbers and clients’ needs we have seen has pushed my boundaries in how much I can accomplish in a day under suboptimal conditions, and is a strength I suppose that I’ve found in myself.”
– Dr. Kelvin Kow, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Oncology), Veterinary Oncologist at Port City.
From Another Emergency Veterinarian
“2020/2021: Crazy outpatient loads, sick and intensive inpatients, and sometimes impatient clients.
Also 2020/2021: Incredible resilience, tireless compassion for our patients, persistent work ethic, and powerful love and support to and from our staff.
We can do it, because we do it together.”
– Erin Smythe-Morey, DVM, Emergency Veterinarian at PESCM.
Thank you to all our veterinarians across Ethos, our referring veterinarians across the country, and every veterinarian who persevered through this past year. You’re all heroes to us.