AAHA-accredited hospitals reaching out to each other for advice during pandemic


There is no doubt COVID-19 has created a host of challenges for veterinary hospitals. But AAHA-accredited hospitals are among the profession’s most innovative problem solvers. AAHA maintains a facebook group for accredited members and found an impressive array of creative solutions being shared in the community.

One practice manager asked, “How is everyone dealing with the six-foot distance rule in the exam rooms?” She also wanted to know how other hospitals were handling appointments in which clients stay out of the building and staff go outside to bring in patients.

Robbyn Ruthless Morris, a licensed veterinary technician at AAHA-accredited Companion Pet Hospital in Fishkill, New York, replied that their hospital, like many others, no longer allows clients in the building. Instead, they have the client call when they get to the parking lot, an LVT takes the patient history over the phone, then an employee goes out to bring the pet in to see the veterinarian. After they appointment, they call the owner to discuss the exam, then take the pet back out to the car.

Robbyn adds, “Haven’t heard a ton of backlash so far; I think people are panicked and appreciate the effort we are trying to make to keep them safe.”

Marybeth Cline, a veterinarian at an AAHA-accredited hospital in Riverside, Pennsylvania, said her hospital hasn’t gone so far as keeping nonstaff out of the building, but they’re doing their best to stick to that six-foot rule: “We are only allowing one person [in the hospital] per pet, [and] we’re getting them in and out of exam rooms pretty quickly.”

Marybeth says they also do patient checkout in the exam room to minimize the number of people in the lobby, and they’re mailing out prescriptions so people who just need medication won’t have to enter the building.

A group member asked if anyone had concerns about pets getting loose outside during curbside service and what they were doing to prevent it. Another member responded: “We double leash outside.” She said a veterinary technician brings a second leash (slip lead) to the car. When the owner removes the pet from the car, the technician loops the second leash on the pet, then takes the client’s leash to bring the pet inside.

NEWStat ran these questions and answers past Judy Rose Lanier, CVPM, CVA. Lanier, currently AAHA’s Learning Programs Manager, was formerly a Member Experience Regional Manager and practice consultant. Lanier said, “All these measures are great!” She added that “Communication is key during times like these. Make sure that your clients are informed ahead of time of the situation and how the exam process will go.” Lanier said it’s s also a good idea to let clients know about the new routines before the actual appointment to minimize everybody’s stress.

Lanier adds a few words about hygiene: “I can’t stress how important it is for the team members to stick to the hygiene protocols recommended by the CDC: Wash your hands and disinfect surfaces frequently, and try not to touch your face.”

Anthony Merkle, CVT, Regional Manager for Member Experience, Western Region, and a former practice consultant, agreed with Lanier on the excellence of the accredited members’ advice, while adding a word of caution on leashing: He said a dog’s fear and stress can increase when they’re being removed from the car, and it’s not a good idea to rely on the structural integrity of the client’s leash to keep a dog from bolting. “Hospital staff should be bringing slip leashes with them to the car—at least two each trip—and ensure the client has a slip leash around the patient as well.”

Merkle added that this tip in particular is an important precaution given that the number of curbside pickups will likely only increase as the pandemic continues.

If you’re an accredited member, join the AAHA-Accredited Members Facebook Page for more great peer support, tips, and advice on helping your hospital cope with the COVID-19 crisis. And as always, contact your Member Experience representative with any COVID-19 questions you have.

Photo credit: © iStock/Eoneren

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