Inside AAHA: August 2021

Cheryl Smith, CVPM, director on the AAHA board, discusses workplace safety protocols in light of the pandemic. Also, a summary of the Connexity keynote speakers, and Dear AAHA addresses keeping patients’ temperatures within normal limits.

View from the Board

Always Be Prepared

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed our industry’s perception and prioritization of safely operating a veterinary practice. Current AAHA standards outline the need for a natural disaster preparedness plan, but the gaps in planning were painfully revealed last year. Most disaster planning is for discrete events such as flooding or power outages that impact the facilities. The past year revealed the need to prepare for events that affect the entire community, both clients and staff members, inside and outside the business.

No one anticipated how the COVID-19 pandemic would disrupt our understanding of safety and preparedness. The illness of just one employee reverberated through entire facilities and paralyzed operations with rolling quarantines and work stoppages. Safely conducting business became reliant on the physical and mental health and well-being of the teams, and for the first time, it became imperative for employees to adjust their behaviors outside of the workplace to protect their coworkers. Many sta‚ members were compelled to consider whether continued employment was worth the possible consequences for at-risk family members at home.

Safe€ became about reacting and establishing protocols to create separate teams, monitor temperatures, and minimize possible exposures. Curbside protocols were implemented to protect staff and clients, requiring more communication utilizing technology, for better or worse. The positive was ensuring safety while our teams worked together to solve constantly changing operational challenges. Conversely, we are concerned about the possible erosion of relationships with clients because of the more impersonal service delivery.

I believe AAHA-accredited practices had an adaptation advantage as protocols and operational plans are all a part of adhering to the standards. In New York, our restrictive state requirements were not always easy to interpret and often seemed to supersede or conflict with US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. Professional organizations, including AAHA, became integral partners in establishing industry-specific operational compliance.

The challenges continue as reopening progresses. As management teams of veterinary hospitals, how do we safely and comfortably allow clients to return to in-person appointments with staff again? How will we accommodate and protect those who choose not to be vaccinated? Can we or should we conduct on-site interviews for new employees, and what will high school career days look like? When will it be safe to welcome everyone into our doors and host open houses again?

Hopefully, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic creates a situation where we consider safety not just as planning for an external force impacting the facility but with a holistic view of the staff, the physical practice, and our business model. Our industry needs to leverage our collective knowledge and experiences, evaluate the best practices that came out of the COVID-19 operational challenges, and enhance those ideas moving forward. We must proactively brainstorm how we could have been better prepared to protect the functional, physical, and psychological safety of our clients, staff, and practices.

Cheryl Smith
Cheryl Smith, CVPM, is a director on the AAHA board, and is hospital administrator at Galway Veterinary Hospital, PLLC, in Galway, New York. Smith became a certified veterinary practice manager in 2009, and she graduated from the Veterinary Management Institute in 2011.

Let’s Connect at Connexity

September 22−25, 2021 |

We’re getting so excited to see you next month at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the in-person Connexity conference.

  • 30 hours of scientific CE
  • Fresh takes on practice problems at the “Solutions Carnival”
  • Sessions on AAHA’s latest 2021 guidelines, including telehealth, nutrition, and feline life stage.

AAHA is committed to strict COVID-19 safety measures and will have a certified Pandemic Compliance Advisor onsite to ensure proper protocols.

New ways to engage and learn together!

Team Anesthesia Simulation

Remember the thrill of playing the board game Operation? A limited number of Connexity guests will participate in an immersive anesthesia simulation where their team will test their anesthesia skills and problem-solving teamwork in a mock surgery scenario.

ER Escape Room

Use the clues and your veterinary practice knowledge to clear obstacles and solve problems to escape!

Meet the Keynotes

Bertice Berry, PhD, is a sociologist, author, and award-winning lecturer who has published 11 bestselling fiction and nonfiction books. She has had a nationally syndicated television show and has appeared on The Tonight Show, Oprah Winfrey, Comedy Central, and CNN, among others. Berry has won numerous accolades for her writing and presentations, including Comedian of the Year and Lecturer of the Year.

Josh Packard, PhD, is a sociologist, professor, and researcher at the University of Northern Colorado, where he also serves as executive director of the Social Research Lab and host of “The Bias Disruption” podcast, which applies social science to examine how blindspots, bias, and preconceived ideas impact organizations.

Sara Ross founded BrainAMPED to provide brain-based tools to decrease stress and exhaustion and increase Leadership Vitality by strengthening the skills of energy management, emotional intelligence, and resilience. Her ideas and research are earning her a reputation as a fresh and thought-provoking voice in discussions focused on the future of work. Her ideas and research are earning her a reputation as a fresh and thought-provoking voice in discussions focused on the future of work.



Dear AAHA,

We’ve been struggling to find ways to keep our patients’ temperatures within normal limits since we’ve been advised to no longer use electrical resistance warming (HotDog) blankets. Do you have any suggestions?

—Warming Up in Maryland

Dear Warming,

It is great to hear that you understand the importance of keeping patients’ temperatures within normal limits. Understanding how a patient is losing their heat is vital to preventing heat loss and hypothermia (for example, taking steps to keep the patient dry and warm when cold water is used during a dental procedure). Please keep in mind that temperatures should be checked periodically during the recovery period to ensure they are returning to or maintaining a normal temperature. We encourage you to explore the many methods out there while aligning with your hospital protocols, such as in-line fluid warmers, forced-air warmers, and pre-warming patients by starting IVC and fluids during pre-op.

—AAHA’s Member Experience Team

Have a question you’d like AAHA to answer? Email us at [email protected].

AAHA Meetings and Events

AAHA is closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19 and we will continue to follow recommended public health guidelines leading up to all scheduled AAHA events.

AAHA at WVC Annual Conference

Booth #1924 | September 6–9

Beyond Medicine Workshop

October 30

AAHA at IAAHPC Conference

September 9–11

AAHA Connexity (virtual)

September 9–11

Connexity (in-person)  

Scottsdale, Arizona | September 22–25

Beyond Medicine Workshop

November 13

Register for a learning program and learn more about AAHA’s upcoming events.

Photo credits: fstop123/iStock via Getty Images Plus



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