The pandemic has been a strange time for veterinary professionals—indeed, it has been challenging to say the least. We were collectively forced to battle circumstances which were, at best, difficult to navigate, and, at worst, utterly terrifying. For ages (well before the pandemic), our quirky industry has been notoriously understaffed. Once you factor in the pandemic, the boom of animal adoptions, and our already-tired selves, we have certainly been taken for a ride this past year.
As COVID vaccines roll out and things shift toward a ‘new normal,’ perhaps we should take a moment to congratulate ourselves for surviving the epic battles we have all been fighting. After all, we’re in the thick of it, and we know how hard it’s been. Now more than ever, it might be time to indulge in some little luxuries to make our working lives that much easier. (We deserve it!)
Here are 10 things this writer considers to be ‘must-haves’ for a healthy clinic.
1) A good portable razor
While this one might sound obvious, as a travelling technician, I am baffled by the number of clinics I encounter without this item. A portable razor is one of those items where you do not fully appreciate how much it will improve your life until you have one—then you realize you cannot live without it! When compared to its corded cousin, this handy device is nicer and more comfortable for patients (plus, it saves you the inevitable struggle of untying the long cable). This is truly an investment in saved time.
2) A stocked lunch room
If you’re hoping to transform your clinic into a true ‘unicorn,’ offering your team members a complimentary lunch or snack might be a sure-fire way to do it.
Schedules can be hectic when you work in veterinary medicine. Often, cooking and packing lunches takes a back seat to myriad other things on a technician’s to-do list. Food prep aside, it’s nearly impossible to predict how the workday will go, which means skipping lunch happens more often than not on exceptionally busy days in the clinic.
To help keep team members happy (and sated), some practices opt to keep a stock of food on-hand for the staff. This can be as simple as snack boxes with granola bars and fruit, or as extensive as a fully stocked fridge/freezer with quick and easy-to-make lunches. Having healthy options available (e.g. yogurt, protein shakes, ramen soups, or smoothies) can help curb the temptation to order fast food for lunch.
For practice owners, this is small gesture that’s easy to budget—a once-a-week shop of $30 usually does the trick.
3) Coiled IV
All I need to say is ‘beep’ and I’m sure all veterinarians, technicians, and nurses are groaning with annoyance. No kidding: ‘down occlusion’ and ‘air in line’ are two phrases we would be happy to never hear again (ever!).
To alleviate the beep-stress, consider investing in a coiled IV line. This handy device attaches at the top of the cage, allowing freedom of movement for your patient without them getting tangled in or kinking their line.
4) Digitized software
For the clinics that have not yet gone paperless, the transition is certainly no easy feat. That said, the benefit of having everything digitized is worth the effort. (Picture it: no more hand-written notes!) What’s more, the efficiency with which the digitizing process can be done is truly outstanding—and most software companies are more than willing to help make the transition as smooth as possible.
These days, digital files are stored on the cloud and can be accessed anywhere. This technology helps keep a hospital clean, organized, and efficient. SOAPs can be written while reception checks the client out, and patient histories are easily accessed and completely legible. Further, prescription refills are easy to identify and communication is easy to track and log.
5) Dignified body bags
When it comes to euthanasia aftercare, most in the veterinary industry agree we are past the age of using garbage bags to store patient remains. Using purpose-built bags for post-euthanasia patients shows your clients you continue to respect and care about their pet, even after death.
6) Liver treats
There aren’t many dogs out there that can resist beef liver. To keep canine patients happy, many clinics keep these tasty treats available in jars, which has been especially useful for curbside appointments. As soon as a dog enters the building, treats can be easily administered (unless they have allergies, of course). As a suggestion, jars are a bit more user-friendly than packaged treats, which can get liver powder all over your hand—gross!
7) Purse/leash hooks
Have you ever been on the ‘paying’ side of a reception counter, looping your dog’s leash around your arm while simultaneously trying to dig out your wallet? Talk about awkward.
Installing hooks on the outside of your reception desk is a simple way to make your clients’ check-out a bit easier. What’s more, they’ll also prove useful to your staff when they’re putting their coats on to take patients out for a quick walk. Indeed, these small efforts go a long way in improving the clinic experience as a whole.
8) V-trays (or sandbags)
V-shaped trays (or positioners) are a tremendous asset when taking radiographs—especially a VD view of the chest or abdomen. They offer stability and comfort, which makes patients resist less. If a V-tray is not an option, sandbags or socks with rice in them can be a very good alternative in helping position your patient. For your team, these handy tools also reduce the risk of radiation exposure, as our hands are farther away from the beam.
9) Microscopy tools
For busy clinics constantly running cytologies, investing in a machine to fix and dry slides is a no-brainer. Available as a countertop device, this little tool can save you and your staff loads of time. Plus, heating fixing cells is the best way to ensure they adhere flat onto the slide and take the stain well. Most machines can fix and dry five slides at a time, from urine to ear cytologies.
10) Pheromone diffusers
Synthetic, calming pheromone products are great in helping ease anxiety in canine and feline patients. Some clinics use a diffuser in their cat rooms for hospitalized patients, which is a nice gesture. This can help the pet get used to the environment, as well as the fellow felines sharing the space.
Likewise, dog owners are often on the hunt for ways to manage anxiety in their pets without using medicine. In addition to training and supplements, pheromone products can be a very useful addition to have on-hand for clients to try out with their four-legged friend.
Pleasant days ahead
Pandemic-related pressures certainly kicked the entire veterinary industry into overdrive, but there’s nothing like the thrill of a new shiny toy to put us into good spirits. There are so many cool products and amazing companies to support! Finding the devices that work well for your clinic can help unite your team and allow you to work more efficiently.
Alexandra Yaksich, BSc., AHT, wears many hats. She is a veterinary technician, writer of all things veterinary, and helps clinics build their practices. Yaksich strives to dispel myths in the animal health industry and create solutions available to both clinic staff and pet owners. Follow her on Instagram (@alexandra.yaksich) or connect with her via LinkedIn.