In the Community: Creating a New Normal

When it comes to the coronavirus, thinking outside the box is the new normal. So it was for AAHA-accredited practice Gladstone Veterinary Clinic in Milwaukee, Oregon, on the southeast edge of the Portland metro area.

Coffee Creek inmates are reunited with their puppies after the coronavirus orders lift. (Photo courtesy of Coffee Creek Correctional Facility)

Editor’s note: Since the advent of the coronavirus, veterinary practices’ community service has shifted. We reached out to several practices we’ve interviewed in the past to see how they’re doing.

When it comes to the coronavirus, thinking outside the box is the new normal. So it was for AAHA-accredited practice Gladstone Veterinary Clinic in Milwaukee, Oregon, on the southeast edge of the Portland metro area.

“Initially, when the coronavirus hit, three staff members had childcare issues. We came up with the crazy idea to start a mini childcare center in the practice,” Tanya ten Broeke, DVM, practice owner, told AAHA. “Needless to say, that didn’t work out. In fact, we realized almost immediately that we needed to limit, not add to, the number of people in the building.”

That’s exactly what Gladstone did. “We quickly closed the building and allowed access only to team members and patients, and put a curbside service in place,” said ten Broeke. “We put new protocols in place two to three times a week, and sometimes, two to three times a day. We also shortened our hours so we could do catch-up after hours, and stopped being open on Saturdays to give staff two-day breaks.”

Gladstone also took advantage of remote work options and tools. “One of our veterinary assistants began working from home and uses our practice management software, Slack, texting, and more, and this has alleviated some of the stress for those of us in the building. She has been a huge help behind the scenes with prescriptions and refills, electronic client forms, coordination, and more.”

Because Gladstone has a lot of high-risk staff members—ten Broeke herself has type 1 diabetes—Gladstone has decided to continue with curbside service until a vaccine is available. This will enable Gladstone to settle into a new and less stressful “normal,” and refine its processes and infrastructure.

That new normal has retained some of Gladstone’s community service efforts. One, with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), is a program in partnership with Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, Oregon’s women’s prison, located just south of Portland.

The CCI program involves puppies living with prison inmates for up to two years. During that time, puppies rotate between inmates for three weeks, and puppy handlers for one week. Puppy handlers also provide guidance to inmates on the care and training of the puppies. Gladstone provides veterinary support.

Needless to say, interactions with inmates stopped immediately when the coronavirus began. However, now that Oregon is reopening, the program is restarting. Gladstone will again be treating the dogs via curbside and via video chats with the puppy handlers. “The inmates are thrilled,” said ten Broeke.

Gladstone’s other community service effort with the Portland Animal Welfare Team, a nonprofit that provides free veterinary care to the pets of people who are experiencing homelessness, has not yet restarted. “We’re still figuring that out,” said ten Broeke.

But that’s all part of creating—and re-creating—the new normal.

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