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COVID-19, News, Public Health

Veterinary Clinics Take Measures to Protect Staff and Clients

Patricia WuestVice President of Media Strategy, NAVC

Veterinary Clinics Take Measures to Protect Staff and Clients
Veterinarian clinics are continuing to help animals during COVID-19 crisis, but have also been forced to make changes to their normal procedures. Photo: Kylian/shutterstock.com

Due to the escalating spread of COVID-19 illness, veterinary clinics across the nation are forced to make temporary changes to their normal operations to help keep their staff and their clients safe during the coronavirus crisis. For example, telemedicine or a curbside “concierge service” are being implemented.

Since veterinary nurses/technicians and front-desk staff are often the team members communicating with clients, as well as taking care of animals inside the clinic, Today’s Veterinary Nurse offers these tips:

Client Communication

1) Reassure clients that infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations says there is no evidence to indicate that pets spread COVID-19 to other animals, including people. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is monitoring this situation closely.

2) If you receive a call from a client that has contracted the virus, follow the guidelines as outlined by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) guidelines:

• Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.
• Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet.
• If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them.
• Wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet or service animal.
• Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home.

3) Stay in touch with clients via texts, social media and old-fashioned signs at your clinic’s front entrance. Let them know if you are still open for appointments and what the procedure is for scheduling and conducting appointments during the pandemic. Post signs on the clinic’s door to inform pet owners of new protocols currently being utilized at the clinic.

In the Clinic

1) Find out the contact information for your local health department and share with the entire team in case you need to consult with them.

2) Be thorough in cleaning and disinfecting communal surfaces.

3) Encourage staff hygiene, including frequent handwashing.

4) Staff members with symptoms of COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days.

Telemedicine and Curbside Drop-offs/Pick-ups

1) Triage or treat as many cases as possible by telemedicine (e.g., using FaceTime or Skype). “Most states still require a physical exam to establish a valid VCPR [veterinarian-client-patient-relationship],” advises Dana Varble, Chief Veterinary Office of the NAVC. “The state has ultimate authority over how veterinary medicine is practiced in their state. Some states have temporarily relaxed those rules — most have not. The general practitioner still must abide by their state’s rules.”

2) If your practice offers curbside drop-off/pick-up or concierge service, ask clients to call the veterinary office from their vehicles when they arrive for their pet’s appointment. Ensure that your practice can handle all registrations, initial deposits, communications, treatment authorizations and discharges via the phone. Instruct clients to call or text when they’ve parked. Designate one staff member to meet the animal’s owner at their car and bring the animal inside. Once the animal is in the exam room, either call or text the owner to discuss any issues the pet is having. Conduct the examination as if the owner is in the room, apprising them of anything you’re noticing and asking questions about what the owner has noticed. Discuss treatment options and provide recommendations and a plan for moving forward. Establish consent for treatment. Provide financial estimates and obtain authorization by phone. Notify the pet owner via phone about their pet’s discharge status. This is also the time to discuss prescription medications that may be needed, any medication refills, and scheduling of follow-up appointments.