There is a lot to remember when it comes to caring for your four-legged companion, such as proper nutrition, exercise, and ample cuddles. Additionally, whether you are navigating puppyhood or caring for a senior pet, regular veterinary visits are vital to ensure they remain healthy. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected operations across all industries, and the veterinary profession is no exception. It is likely you have experienced delays in veterinary appointment availability and have had extended wait times during veterinary visits. Since 2020, veterinary hospitals have experienced unprecedented demand, which has resulted in overload. Our team at Heritage Veterinary Clinic understands the stress and frustration of not being able to obtain timely veterinary appointments, and we want to explain the reasons for veterinary overload and ways you can support your veterinary team.
#1: Pandemic safety protocols affect veterinary appointment availability
Although a nail trim or a vaccination update may seem like a quick procedure, new and additional hospital safety protocols can result in longer appointment times for procedures that previously were quickly completed. For instance, more time is required to regularly sanitize hospital surfaces. In addition, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) regularly updates recommended veterinary hospital safety guidelines and resources, and operational changes sometimes have to be made. Many hospitals also implemented curbside care during the pandemic, which significantly increased appointment times to allow for necessary phone calls between veterinarians and pet owners, in addition to support staff communications.
#2: Demand for veterinary care is at an all-time high
Pandemic lockdowns, quarantine, and isolation requirements were a dream come true for many pets, as they enjoyed extended time with their favorite human. Even now, many pet owners have continued to work remotely. This extended period at home has resulted in pet owners spending more time observing their pet’s daily habits. Subtle changes in elimination habits, appetite changes, or the discovery of a new lump or bump have led to increased demand for veterinary appointments.
#3: Veterinary hospitals are struggling to address a backlog of wellness appointments
During the 2020 lockdown, veterinary hospitals were designated an essential business and allowed to remain open. However, many practices were limited to seeing urgent care cases or had to close temporarily as they adjusted to the required pandemic protocols. These changes resulted in a significant number of pets who needed non-urgent, wellness care but were unable to get it. Many veterinary hospitals still are playing catchup from the backlog of these patients.
#4: Nationwide staffing shortages impact veterinary hospital operations
Across the country, veterinary practices are grappling with staff shortages caused by illness among team members, absenteeism because of sick family members, and increased burnout. As a result, many veterinary staff are electing to take breaks or leave the profession altogether. According to the AVMA, the veterinary staff turnover rate is twice as high as that among human doctors, and veterinary technicians have the highest turnover rate of all health care positions.
Ways to support your veterinary team
Successful veterinary care is a team effort between pet owners and veterinary staff. Although a simple solution to the veterinary overload crisis doesn’t exist, there are numerous ways pet owners can support their veterinary team, including:
- Communicating calmly and with kindness when speaking with members of your veterinary team
- Scheduling wellness visits with your veterinarian three to four weeks in advance
- Providing hospital staff with your pet’s vaccination history and/or previous veterinary records before your pet’s scheduled visit
- Using your veterinarian’s online pharmacy for approved medication refills to avoid an extended wait period during an in-person visit
- Knowing your payment options, like Care Credit, and considering pet insurance to ensure funds are available for your pet’s required care
Our Heritage Veterinary Clinic
team understands the stress and frustration of extended wait times and limited appointment availability. We are committed to providing quality care for your pet, and ask for patience as we work through this unprecedented veterinary industry overload. Call our office
as far in advance as possible to schedule your pet’s wellness care appointment.