Today’s VETgirl online veterinary guest blogger is by Dr. Heather Douglas, DVM, MBA, Adjunct Professor at St. George’s University (Grenada). If your veterinary clinic is stressed out about the implications from Coronavirus COVID-19, read on…

Pandemic Problems? Your Business’s Hangover Cure for Coronavirus COVID-19 | VETgirl Online Veterinary Continuing Education Blog

By Dr. Heather Douglas, DVM, MBA

Coronavirus affects on veterinary medicine

The World Health Organization declares a pandemic in the face of COVID-19 – now what? (For some great resources, read up from WSAVA and the AVMA here). From risk management to proper planning and effective communication, your veterinary clinic needs to be prepared.

As a veterinary practice owner, you may have not considered the impact COVID-19 could have on your business. If the virus isn’t affecting people in your area or hasn’t arrived yet, it’s easy to not think that it will happen to you. It’s just a cold anyway, right? Well, actually it is much more severe than a cold, especially in individuals over fifty years of age. And if you’ve been tested positive, or even exposed, you will be under a fourteen day quarantine and unable to come to work during that time. The same thing could happen with your veterinary team. Then what?

1) Increase Marketing. Be creative – what can you offer that ensures your clinic is deemed an essential?

2) Educate your team. Maybe they don’t think COVID-19 is an issue, but it is imperative that the entire clinic be trained on the infectious nature to better implement disinfection and care. There’s great information from the CDC HERE.

3) Assure your clients that your practice has cleaning measures in place and will keep them and their pets safe. Disinfectant frequently (including the ipad check-in, pens, etc.), provide hand sanitizer in the waiting room/exam rooms/front desk, minimize touching, don’t shake hands with anyone, try to maintain 6 feet away, use elbows or the back of your forearm to open doors, wear gloves as often as possible (even when filling meds, etc.).

Image by Vektor Kunst from Pixabay

4) Think outside the box. Could you offer an outdoor clinic so the clients can drive up and you can examine their pets? A veterinary hospital in Colorado is doing just that. Check out this link: Coronavirus Update: How One AAHA Accredited Hospital is Helping Fearful Clients Keep Appointments. Consider car-triage – if an owner is picking up a prescription, have them call ahead or text to coordinate it, pre-pay via the phone, and deliver it to their car to prevent owners from having to come into the veterinary clinic. With DEA-controlled prescription medications (e.g., opioids), make sure to verify an ID and take a picture of it to confirm.

5) Hold onto cash. As your clients become more anxious about the impending spread of the virus, they are frantically stocking up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer. They may start to worry about being in public places and staying home more often. Their pet care becomes less of a priority. Start holding onto cash now. A cash buffer will allow you to get through any slow periods and still pay your bills and your team.

6) Stock enough inventory to get you through two months and see if your vendor will provide delayed billing. There will be drug shortages, prepare by having enough inventory on hand. Don’t hoard, however! We need to allow our colleagues the same opportunity to treat their patients. At the same time, make sure your staff are reusing PPE, surgical masks, caps, etc. while you can due to limited supply. Make sure you send out a hospital-wide email so staff are not pilfering them with the COVID-19 scare too!

7) Strategize your sick leave. Can you afford to pay ten days of sick leave for those staff members required to be quarantined? This is not a legal requirement, via the Coronavirus Relief Package as it only applies to businesses with 50 or more employees but will ease your team’s minds if they are worried about being quarantined. You aren’t required to do so and as a small business owner it may not be feasible and that’s ok. That said, current political situations are strategizing about this, so stay tuned!

8) Reassess your payroll. As the owner, can you decrease your salary temporarily? What about decreasing staff hours by 3-5 hours per week to avoid layoffs? More importantly, for non-essential staff who have to be on the “floor,” have them work from home if possible (e.g., business manager, management, etc.) to avoid any exposure and to enhance social distancing.

9) Communicate with your team and your clients. The more information the better. Facts will dissipate assumptions and build trust.

10) Don’t panic! Plan. Create an SOP on sick leave, pandemics, disinfection policies, etc. Consider applying for a small business loan if needed. The The Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering small business loans for businesses suffering substantial economic injury due to coronavirus.

These are thoughts to ponder. You can continue the status quo, maybe COVID-19 won’t affect your area or practice. Whether it does or doesn’t, having a plan in place and instituting it will allow you peace of mind to continue doing what you love and administer care to patients who need you.

● McReynolds, Tony. (2020, 3/11) Coronavirus update: How one AAHA-accredited hospital is helping fearful clients keep appointments. AAHA.
● Photo Credit: ID 171141215 © Mast3r |
● 116th Congress. (2020, 3/14). H.R. 6201.
● Kelly, Jennifer. (2020, 3/14) SBA to Provide Disaster Assistance Loans for Small Businesses Impacted by Coronavirus (COVID-19). SBA.

  1. Talk about how to handle associates and relief vets and how to uphold their contracts or null them.

    What happens when the solo practice (there are a few of us out there) is sick with covid 19? State funds? Business insurance?

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