What COVID-19 Has Taught Us
Halfway through 2020, it is remarkable how much our world has changed because of the global pandemic. With so much uncertainty still ahead (Will there be more spikes or a second wave? When will a vaccine be available? Do antibodies create lasting immunity?), it is important to reflect on what we have learned and how we have reacted over the last few months. As states quickly had to make decisions on what should and should not be open during the crisis, it was validating to see veterinary medicine deemed essential throughout the nation. This has confirmed the importance of the human/animal bond and in many ways publicly elevated our roles in delivering animal health care.
What is most striking is how nimble we were as a profession and as a practice. I am extremely proud of how quickly our centers and practices were able to implement a curbside check in to protect our team members and the public. Being among the first to create the operational flows that soon became the norm, we were able to share our plans with others looking to do the same. Perhaps most validating was the experience of relief doctors at Independent Vets who cited how safe they felt working at Heart + Paw compared to other practices.
What also became apparent was how dedicated our Heart + Paw leaders were to their teams, patients, and clients. As essential workers, they quickly have become the unsung heroes who have had to navigate their own fears of exposure, home-school their children, conserve PPEs all while providing quality care in novel ways. With the sudden change, we were faced with the difficult decision of having to furlough or delay starts for several team members. In doing so, we quickly made the decision to keep the salaries of those in our centers and practices whole, while asking our support center team members to take a temporary salary adjustment. Fortunately, we have been able to pay the medical benefits for all furloughed team members enrolled in our medical plan, so they did not have to worry about losing health care during this crisis. As a result of our management, we have lifted the temporary salary adjustment and have even been able to add veterinarians to our growing practice.
Opening new hospitals during a pandemic is not ideal, yet we opened three right as the virus hit. In some cases, this meant having to work around final facility improvements or without certain pieces of equipment. We learned that there were many people looking for veterinary care and happy to discover our centers. While we continue seeking new partner practices to acquire, we have paused on closing until some of the uncertainty clears. This has not prevented us from meeting potential sellers, and we have several new partners lined up to become part of the Heart + Paw family in the months ahead.
Another key learning is how resilient we are as an organization. We saw much internal change over the last few months and yet our practice grows and has outpaced other general practices affected by COVID-19 in the region. We used the time and changes to reflect inward and reevaluate how we better serve our partner practices and how to improve our openings. This has been a truly collaborative effort and involved both our teams and our support center.
As we go forward the rest of this year, we are excited to expand our Heart + Paw family with more partner hospitals, plans for new centers, bringing back as many of our still furloughed team members, and sharing the Heart + Paw vision with the profession.