Yes, we are still Curbside!

I know, those weren’t the words you wanted to hear and we get it. We honestly can’t wait until the day we can welcome our clients back into the building and we talk about this very regularly. While we have perfected our curbside protocols, and our cleaning protocols were always rigorous, it’s important to note that we are indeed trying to do what is best for everyone, including the clients, doctors, team members, and patients. However, we’re sure that means you may have some questions and that’s what we’re here for! Here are some of the most common questions or concerns that our team has been fielding. 

When will you let clients back into the building? I think we can all agree the sooner the better! However, we cannot answer this question as it’s going to require a lot of different factors. One of the big main ones is the availability of vaccines. We have team members that are older, more at risk and until we can get a good portion of our team vaccinated, we won’t be allowing clients back into the building. As a nation, we’re looking at late summer or early fall but that will depend on the availability of vaccines. We’ve technically been tier 1b and a huge portion of us are already on waiting lists but just like everyone else, we have to wait our turn. So at this time, the best answer we can provide is hopefully by late summer or early fall so long as everything works out for the nation as a whole.

All the other animal hospitals in the area are letting clients in the building, why aren’t you? This statement is actually false, not ALL the other clinics are letting clients in the building and we know this because we are calling them regularly to be able to offer this information to our dear clients. We contact the nearest 15 veterinary offices in the area and while the names change, there have been steady 2/15 clinics in our area that allow clients into the building. Those few clinics that are letting clients in the building may have a larger team so they can work in shifts. They might have larger exam rooms which allow for more social distance. They might not have any elderly or immunocompromised individuals working there at all. It might be a combination of all three of those scenarios or more but either way, we are equipped with knowledge so that we can provide that to you. I have not included the names of those clinics in this post because as mentioned, they have been changing throughout the pandemic. Some that let clients into the building ended up having outbreaks within their team, were forced to shut down, and then never let clients back into the building. Others have stopped when cases were high and then started again when cases went down. However, you can give us a call and we’ll be happy to let you know which clinics are currently letting clients in the building. At least, to the best of our knowledge. 

Aren’t you afraid of losing clients if you don’t start letting them into the building? No, not at all. That’s why we have the names of clinics that are letting clients into the building so that we can provide them with this information. You see, we completely understand that our clients choose us because of the quality of our service. They come to us because they love seeing our Fear Free methods and know the quality of our medicine is high since we are one of only 15% of animal hospitals in the entire nation to receive accreditation from the American Animal Hospital Association. We also completely understand the bond you share with your pets. If you have to go to a clinic that is letting clients into the building, we understand why and there are no hard feelings on our part. We’re confident that once this pandemic is over, our loyal clients will come back to us because they can trust that the level of care here has not changed. There’s also plenty of clients that have loved our curbside methods whether it be the video options, the texted photos, or our innovative, digital forms.

Isn’t it a little ridiculous that you can go to a restaurant to eat but you can’t go into the clinic to be with your pet? No, it makes perfect sense actually! While indoor dining is open and available, it’s open under certain restrictions. Whether that be that they operate at only 50% capacity, face mask requirements, or tables being placed six feet apart. Team members at restaurants can stay away from one another so that the risk for everyone is greatly reduced. This is not possible for veterinary medicine as we have to restrain your pets and oftentimes that takes 2-3 people working very closely with one another. If a restaurant or grocery store worker contracts COVID19 then that person stays home for their quarantine but they don’t have to worry about anyone else unless they were in close contact with another worker. Plus, the fact that these places are indeed open is actually more of a reason for us to keep clients out of the building because the risk will increase for everyone significantly. Let’s also not forget that going to bars and restaurants is an optional choice for many people right now, meaning that those people are willing to take on the risk while others that are not, stay home or order take out. Bringing your pet to the vet when they are sick is not optional, and so for the safety of everyone, it is important that we keep these protocols for those that are not as fortunate to be low risk. 

If facemasks work to go to the grocery store, why aren’t they good enough at the vet? Have you seen the way some people wear their masks at the grocery store? Anywhere? You’d think after a year into the pandemic that people would know that a facemask should cover the nose and mouth but that’s just not the case at all. In general, face masks aren’t the only thing at work for grocery stores. They’re limiting their capacity, staying 6 feet apart, and also implementing rigorous cleaning protocols to keep everyone as safe as possible. Some have also introduced certain shopping hours or online orders for store pick up. There isn’t a one size fits all solution to any of this. We know our rooms are smaller and don’t allow for social distancing. We also know that this virus is airborne, so there would be no way of cleaning the air between patients. That means that if on average, every room sees 10 clients a day, the room will have the air particles of 10 clients and that’s even with facemasks. We just can’t put that risk on anyone at this time. At least, not until we all have some protection working for us here.

What kind of precautions will you have once you start letting clients in the building? Our lobby will likely remain closed and we’ll still have everyone call/text to check-in. We’ll then bring clients (masked up, of course) into each room individually, one at a time. Why the masks if our team will be theoretically vaccinated by then?  To protect others, of course! This virus is airborne and masks do not work 100% but do help to reduce the total amount of particles in the air. Even with vaccines, it prevents you from becoming seriously ill but people can still shed the virus. We will likely have made some modifications to our rooms at this point to increase air circulation which is currently at work just to protect all of you. We will also likely do temperature checks at the door but don’t worry, we’ll save the rectal thermometers for the pets! 

Doesn’t your team put themselves at risk every time to go anywhere? It’s not like you can guarantee that they’re staying home. They do put themselves at risk when they go places just like everyone else does but that is their own choice. We cannot force them to live their lives any type of way outside of work but we can educate them about what is going on with the pandemic. Our team meets weekly for protocol updates and general information. During these meetings, we are constantly talking about COVID19 updates from various credible sources. They are up to date with what’s going on and luckily, they work in a field that deals with viruses every single day so they know how they work. The fact that I cannot guarantee what they do in their free time, is even more of a reason for us to keep you protected. This virus has taken a toll on literally every single one of us, and our own mental health has always been a priority in this industry. We have regular discussions about things that are socially safe to do and we trust our team to make the right decisions. 

I just don’t know how I can trust my cat/dog to go in there without me. How do I know you’re not going to mistreat him or do things without my consent? You don’t know, but you do trust us. Just like you trusted us before when you’d drop your pet off for surgery, you’re going to have to trust us now. Honestly, we all chose this field because of our love for animals. We have always wanted to do what’s best for them. We’ll still communicate with you every step of the way. We’ll still call you before we start to get approval on the treatment route, and we’ll still contact you over the phone with the exam findings. We’ve even fulfilled this need with video chat options, window exams, or even texted photos during the exam. No matter which vet you take your pet to, you will always have to trust them and if you don’t, then it may be time to find a new vet. At Animal Hospital of Lake Villa, you can trust our accreditation from the American Animal Hospital and you can trust our Fear Free Pledge. 

My dog just gets so nervous, how will I know if he’s okay without me in the room? Our Fear Free methods are not new. In the past years, we have taken very great notes on your pet’s preferences from as little as to where they prefer to be examined to as big as the kind of treats he or she prefers. We place all of our patients on a FAS (Fear, Anxiety, Stress) score from 1 – 5 which means that if your pet has been to our facility before, we already know what their stress level is normal and what we can do to minimize it. Yes, we really ARE that good. We have found that a lot of FAS scores 3-5 (those aggressive, hard to handle ones) have actually dropped a level without clients in the room. There’s a lot of theories as to why this phenomenon has happened but the point is, we already know before you even come in what we need to do. Should your pet be one of the rare cases that gets more fearful without you in the room, then we’ll come out to let you know and have you mask up to come into the building. This is OUR assessment though, not yours, because we are the ones that put in many, many hours of study to become certified and keep that certification as the years move forward. We’ve also had a few instances of clients that claim their pets are extremely fearful when in fact they have not been at all.  For this reason, we always begin the exam curbside and if we need to reassess and have you come into the building then we will but this will always be our call entirely. 

Can’t you make an exception just for me? I don’t go anywhere, and I won’t tell anyone. *sigh* No *sigh* I wish we could but that would not be fair to all of the clients that have had to wait outside during curbside. Honestly? This question hurts so much because we would love to be able to say yes and it puts us in such a binding position. So many of you, we’ve known for years and we love all of your pets like they were our own. These protocols are not put in place to be broken just like our AAHA protocols are not put in place to be broken. These protocols also didn’t just appear because we WANT to keep you out of the building. These are the recommendations from the CDC, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and our colleagues all across the nation. Please stop asking for these exceptions because it truly does hurt that much to have to say no. It is something that is already out of our control just like everything else during the pandemic. Even just the thought of letting you down in this way is enough to ruin our entire day. The only exceptions we make to this rule are for euthanasia appointments and pets with previous FAS Level 4, 5 notes (pets with documented high levels of Fear, anxiety, and stress). We have been strict about these protocols because we have to be. Because we have been very fortunate as a  team of coworkers because they have kept us and our clients safe because they have been the main reason our clinic has escaped a shut down from the health department. All of these things tell us that we’re doing the right thing here. 

I know your jobs have always been hard with everything you guys have to deal with and it must be so much harder now. Is there anything that I can do to help? Yes, please be kind, and please spread your kindness everywhere. We have experienced that this pandemic has made our super sweet and loyal clients even sweeter. It has also made some of our clients more difficult. We get it, times are tough. Anxieties are high. We have had to say goodbye to so many things and while some of us have been fortunate enough not to have to say goodbye to people or pets, we’ve still had to deal with so much change in such a short amount of time. If you’re upset about our protocols, we encourage you to speak with our Executive Director, Maria. However, we will not tolerate rude, vulgar behavior or the emotional abuse of our team members. We are still a private business and we do still reserve the right to refuse services to people who act that way. We don’t want to have to do it, but the mental health of our team members is so much more important than the negative review left behind from someone who was upset that we didn’t make an exception on our curbside protocols. Many people don’t know that the veterinary industry is one with higher than average suicide rates and that needs to be known. Truthfully, the tough part of our jobs, the bad news, the goodbyes, the feeling of failure when we did everything that we could for a patient and we lost them anyway, have always come with the job. We’ve learned to take our moments to cry, decompress and then move on to the next patient. We signed up for that. We did not sign up for verbal abuse on top of those difficult moments. Please, be kind.

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