Although many people are sick of hearing about the COVID-19 pandemic, it has undoubtedly been one of the most impactful events in living history.
The pandemic has changed society forever, transforming industries across the globe.
This couldn’t be more true for veterinary care, which has faced enormous challenges over the last year. Whilst the last year has required us all to become more innovative, it has also been immensely stressful; pushing a strained profession to the brink.
But how has the pandemic changed the veterinary profession in the long run?
In this article, we look at three veterinary trends that have emerged due to COVID-19, and how they will impact practice life in the future.
More Clients, Less Capacity
Although the veterinary profession initially took a hit at the start of the pandemic, business is now booming.
With more people spending time at home, pet ownership has also soared, increasing the demand for veterinary services.
Whilst this was good news for practice owners in terms of revenue, with social distancing measures still in place, practice capacity is at an all-time low.
According to a Society of Practicing Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and Veterinary Management Group (VMG) survey, social distancing measures have increased primary consultation times by an average of 15 minutes.
Similar findings were found when looking at common procedures such as vaccinations, which on average took an extra 10 minutes with social distancing measures in place.
With social distancing measures set to stay, this could have ongoing implications on veterinary practice capacity; which will continue to be strained by the increase in clients and longer procedure times.
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Increased Practice Efficiency
Although COVID-19 has put more strain on practices in terms of capacity, this has seemed to have had a knock-on effect on efficiency.
At the beginning of the pandemic, 84% of practice owners and 75% of practice managers had the desire to streamline procedures to become more efficient, according to SPVS and VMG.
In the survey, almost 45% of staff were satisfied/strongly satisfied with their practices efforts to improve efficiency, whereas only 20% were dissatisfied.
This indicates not only a desire to prioritize streamlining services in practices but also an active effort to do so.
Although there is room for improvement (as indicated by the relatively high levels of dissatisfaction with practice efforts), with the issue of capacity still at hand, veterinary efficiency is likely to remain a key issue for the foreseeable future.
Veterinary Wellbeing is in Decline
Somewhat unsurprisingly, it seems that the pandemic has worsened the veterinary mental health crisis.
In a survey from the British Veterinary Association (BVA), three-quarters of veterinarians were very/quite concerned about stress and burnout in the profession during the pandemic.
In a study from the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), researchers found that although there had been a general decline in mental health across the veterinary profession, Equine veterinary nurses reported lower levels of wellbeing than veterinary surgeons. Furloughed veterinary surgeons on the other hand reported lower levels of wellbeing than working ones.
Additionally, 64% of veterinary staff reported an increase in stress/worsening of mental health due to practice pressures caused by furlough.
‘Colleagues may be grieving the loss of a loved one, be worried about family and friends, be under financial strain, or be simply scared by the loss of control in their day‐to‐day lives’ said Christine Stobbs, in a paper published by the BVA.
‘From 2020 onwards, Covid‐19 has added another dimension to the world of work. This has created some unique challenges for everyone, regardless of their role in practice, that may have been tricky to cope with.’
This may have long-term implications for clinicians who are already struggling in a profession that is notoriously stressful.
The pandemic has transformed the veterinary profession in many ways.
As vaccinations increase and restrictions decrease across the world, it will be interesting to see how practices further adapt and innovate in the face of adversity (and what new veterinary trends emerge as a consequence).
To read more about the transition out of lockdown, read our article on ‘Transitioning out of Lockdown as a Veterinary Leader’ here. For more on veterinary trends in 2021, click here.
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