By Deirdre Frey, VMD Owner, Veterinarian, Vet At Your Door, P.C.
It’s hard for me to think about last year at this time when COVID was new, evolving, and crushing down upon us.
See, I started Vet At Your Door in 2015 so that veterinary staff could enjoy a work-life balance that is so often elusive in regular practice. Suicide, depression, anxiety, and burn-out are huge problems in our industry and we’ve fought like hell to figure out a business model that would provide true balance for our talented group. A model that would allow us to practice our best medicine, enjoy nurturing the human-animal bond we fell in love with as kids, and ALSO have the time and energy to enjoy our lives outside of work. I’m proud to say that it had in large part worked. We learned too that a great “side effect” of prioritizing balance was that our clients and patients were happier as well with the quality of their veterinary experience.
Enter COVID which messed everything up.
Almost overnight, we were asked to be teachers, caregivers, workers, and many other titles that we hadn’t held in our day-to-day lives before. Our worlds got smaller and our obligations so much bigger. And of course, the number of hours in the day remained the same. Fear and dread crept into all the crevices of our minds. The idea of achieving balance was quickly thrown out the window and we all hunkered down into survival mode.
There was no relief for us because no one had any bandwidth or proximity or sure answers that could relieve it for us. We simply had to live it, as we had no other choice.
So back to our little house call veterinary practice, the whole premise of which was, yes, to go into people’s homes. How would that keep going during a pandemic?
I remember breaking down during a Zoom meeting with my staff after telling them if they felt uncomfortable, they didn’t have to work. I would understand. I would find a way to pay them some portion of their salary and there was always the generous unemployment option that was out there. I said that if they decided to stay, I would fight hard to find a way to keep them as protected as possible but that it wouldn’t be easy. It would not be a straight or sure path.
Not a single person stopped working.
The loyalty and dedication bring tears to my eyes, even now. We put our heads down and plowed through like stubborn mules. We developed protocols and invested in PPE. We went through quarantines and adjusted to the increased labor that protecting against COVID brought to each and every visit. With increased outdoor visits, we bore the stinging, energy-robbing cold of Maine’s famous winter. Information, protocols, and schedules changed literally on a daily basis and no one complained. Each person adjusted, committed to still providing an exceptional veterinary experience for the pets and their people for whom we care so deeply. Our staff supported each other and put out quality work each and every day when really, it should have been that we had nothing else to give.
And you know what made it easier? You – our clients. You appreciated and adhered to our protocols and valued our efforts to continue seeing your pets in a safe manner despite the risks and hardships. You, despite being in a difficult pandemic predicament yourself, thanked us each chance you got. You, and of course your pets, brightened our days and convinced us again and again that this practice was worth fighting for, COVID be damned. We are forever grateful for you.
Now it is starting to feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Effective vaccinations, schools expanding their in-person hours, temperatures getting warmer, cases going down – these are all positive signs. I can feel us beginning to extricate ourselves from survival mode. I feel hope and gratitude that the balance will soon be within reach once again.
I will never forget the crushing feeling of so many responsibilities on my shoulders alongside the fear and sadness that COVID brought along with it. I am sure you and our staff won’t ever forget it either. But what I will choose to also remember about this pandemic – heck, despite this pandemic - is your warm-heartedness, the wagging tails and purrs of your four-legged family members, and the fierce dedication of our incredible, loyal, and brave staff.
Here’s to building strength from adversity, and to re-creating and rejoicing in newfound balance.
Stay safe, Deirdre Frey, VMD Owner, Veterinarian Vet At Your Door, P.C.