The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 changed virtually every aspect of life as we know it. Employees went home, businesses closed down, schools shut their doors, and families found themselves staring at the same four walls day after day. As the stress, uncertainty, and anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic mounted, more people turned to the one thing they could count on: man’s best friend.
Between April 2019 and April 2020, Shelter Animals Count’s database noted that pet adoption rates in the United States increased by a whopping 34%.¹ Nationwide, life had slowed to a halt. As a result, busy individuals and active families turned to companion pets – namely, dogs and cats – for friendship, routine, and a distraction from the pandemic.
As more people opened their homes to newly purchased or adopted animals, the demand for veterinary care increased.² Requests for new puppy exams, spay and neuter appointments, and routine wellness checks skyrocketed as veterinary clinics worked to maintain operations in the face of social distancing guidelines, local curfews, and zero-contact care.
At the same time, veterinary clinics faced another challenge. The industry had suffered from personnel shortages for about two years. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic and the surge in “pandemic pups,” as industry professionals called the new four-legged additions, left many small practices reeling and unable to keep up.
Over a year later, an alarming number of veterinary clinics are still working to manage staffing shortages. With fewer trained professionals available and a variety of other challenges ahead, clinics have to adopt new operational techniques and communication methods to streamline their practices and care for their patients.
Why Veterinary Clinics Are Experiencing Staff Shortages
Like the rest of the healthcare industry, veterinary clinics have struggled to recover from the pandemic’s impact. However, the industry’s shortages extend beyond the challenges of the pandemic. As the demand for qualified veterinarians and vet techs continues to increase, veterinary clinics face several pervasive issues, including:
- Industry Burnout
An interview with the Association of Veterinary Technician Educators revealed that 35% of all vet technicians suffer from burnout.³ At the same time, nearly 50% of certified vet techs leave the industry within the first five years. The demands of the job, coupled with relatively low salaries, often leave trained vet techs searching for higher-paying jobs in other, less stressful industries.
- Retiring Baby Boomers
As mentioned above, the veterinary industry is growing faster than its qualified talent pool. In addition, a large percentage of veterinary professionals will approach retirement age within the next 15 years, further increasing demands for veterinarians, technicians, and technologists.
- More Patients
The American Veterinary Medical Association estimated that requests for vet appointments increased by more than 50% in 2020. 4 The reasons vary, ranging from more new pets at home to more free time, making it more convenient for pet parents to schedule routine appointments or postponed procedures.
Regardless of the reason, clinics had even more patients than before, resulting in increased rates of burnout, longer working hours, and higher demand for care. (For additional content on how COVID-19 changed the way veterinarian practices do business, download this free Ebook survey report of over 1,400 clinics and clients. )
- Mounting Student Debt
The average veterinarian makes $95,460 each year. 5 The number is more than three times higher than the median American’s salary, but it comes at a cost.
Most veterinarians graduate with roughly $200,000 in student debt. With this in mind, veterinary college students have begun to transition into human medicine, where doctors make more than twice as much as their veterinarian peers.
Vet tech students have followed suit as well. Though they can often complete the two- and four-year certifications at a much lower cost, future vet techs could potentially double their salaries by transitioning to registered nursing programs. Lighting struck our practice, we lost power and breaker boxes. In all my years in veterinary medicine I had never experienced anything like this. Thankfully Weave took a lot of weight off my shoulders. In seconds, I was able to send our phone lines to my cell through the Weave app & answer client calls. ~Angel | Creedmore Road Animal Hospital
Weave's Smart Technology Helps Do More with Less Effort
Lighting struck our practice, we lost power and breaker boxes. In all my years in veterinary medicine I had never experienced anything like this. Thankfully Weave took a lot of weight off my shoulders. In seconds, I was able to send our phone lines to my cell through the Weave app & answer client calls. ~Angel | Creedmore Road Animal HospitalSchedule Demo
How the Pandemic Affected Veterinary Clinics
The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t create all of the veterinary industry’s problems, but it did magnify them. The dwindling workforce already suffered from burnout, high workforce and education dropout rates, and a stressful workload that slowly overtook graduates’ love for animals.
As homebound pet owners began to request more veterinary care, many clinics struggled to stay afloat. Some even had to make the impossible decision to refuse or limit new appointments because they didn’t have the staff they needed to care for the animals.
At the same time, veterinarians and their staff members had to quickly implement new social distancing guidelines to avoid clinic-wide outbreaks. As a result, veterinary clinics suffered many of the same challenges that hospitals and doctors’ offices did, including the following:
- Delayed Appointments
In an interview with the Washington Times, 6 the office manager of a Virginia-based animal hospital revealed that the clinic’s schedule is packed. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, pet owners could typically book same-day appointments to address concerns. Less than two years later, the clinic has a two-week waiting list despite seeing between 40 and 60 clients each day.
A veterinary emergency critical care doctor based in California shared similar sentiments. Before the pandemic began, emergency vets and vet techs typically cared for two patients each hour. The rates have since doubled, with many clinics closing their doors to new cases due to staff shortages.
- Drug Shortages
Supply chain disruptions in China and panic buying have created a drug shortage in veterinary clinics nationwide. With nearly 25% of animal drug manufacturers reporting issues with their supply chains in China in 2020, the American Veterinary Medical Association warned that clinics might not have access to many active ingredients used in common medicines.
At the same time, many people have turned to animal drugs, including antibiotics and anti-parasitics like ivermectin, as a potential defense against COVID-19. The ill-advised and dangerous attempts to prevent the virus 7 have led to empty shelves and short supplies of potentially life-saving animal drugs in clinics across the country.
- Limited Owner Contact
Vets now have significantly less contact with pet owners following the onset of COVID-19. Many clinics have transitioned to curbside care, where vet techs meet owners outside to collect their pets. Owners then leave the animal at the clinic or wait outside for a phone call.
While the limited contact has helped keep both patients and staff members safe, it means that owners are less involved in their pets’ care. Vets also have less information to work with, relying on phone calls or the occasional email to provide clues for potential issues.
The Future of the Veterinary Industry
At Weave, we know that working in the veterinary industry requires knowledge, passion, and skill. However, as clinics transition their operational strategies to accommodate these unprecedented times, veterinarians, technicians, and technologists need all the support they can get.
Our unified communication platform multiplies your team’s efforts by funneling phone calls, emails, and text messages into a central hub. There, you can answer questions, review schedules, and collect payment without the hassle of endless phone calls or emails.
Our mobile-friendly software integrates seamlessly with your current IT system, too, allowing your clinic to enjoy immediate access to:
1. Streamlined Patient Communication
Weave centralizes your office’s communication strategy, allowing you to accept faxes, send out emails, and chat with busy pet owners via phone call or text. You can even schedule automatic SMS reminders for appointments, collect payments with a simple text message, or create an online check-in system that minimizes wait times and alleviates client frustration.
2. 24/7 Contact
With Weave, your clinic will always be open. You and your team can easily access patient information, accept documents, and provide updates from your mobile devices. At the same time, you can connect with your staff and clients at home or on the go.
3. Increased Client Engagement
Writing emails and placing phone calls requires a considerable amount of time and energy, reducing the amount of time you’re able to spend caring for your patients. Even so, pet parents want to know what’s going on with their animals, especially if they’re unable to come inside the clinic with them.
Weave allows you to engage with your clients effortlessly through automated text updates and simplified chatting. Rather than making a phone call, your staff can send a quick text message letting the owner know that their pet is ready for pickup, answer follow-up questions, or address concerns without missing a beat. Lighting struck our practice, we lost power and breaker boxes. In all my years in veterinary medicine I had never experienced anything like this. Thankfully Weave took a lot of weight off my shoulders. In seconds, I was able to send our phone lines to my cell through the Weave app & answer client calls. ~Angel | Creedmore Road Animal Hospital
Weave's Smart Technology Helps Do More with Less Effort
4. Online Review Management
Patients are more likely to visit your clinic if you have recent, positive reviews. Still, getting those reviews can be tricky without a feedback request strategy.
With Weave, you can send a quick review request, increasing the chance that your clients will sing your praises online. You can also monitor clinic feedback from the Weave platform, allowing you to keep a pulse on what’s working and where you can improve.
4. Efficient Scheduling
Finally, Weave makes scheduling more manageable than ever. You can use Weave to send out appointment reminders, confirm the date and time for future visits, and keep your clients up-to-date on vaccination and care status. After incorporating our software, your clinic will have fewer no-shows, minimizing downtime, costs, and lost revenue.
For more information on Weave or to learn more about how we can help your veterinary clinic thrive post-pandemic, please contact our team today at 888-579-5668.
? Weave Helps Veterinarians with Staffing Shortages
- So many pets have been adopted during the pandemic that shelters are running out