Counting the cost of Covid-19
The considerable impact of coronavirus on businesses here will continue to be felt for the foreseeable future, but what of the personal cost? NIVT asked members of the Young Vet Network NI to tell us how they had been affected by the sudden onset of the pandemic…
BVMS MRCVS, The Vet Service
The veterinary industry was being pushed to breaking point a long time before Covid-19 hit. We have seen even more stresses lately, but we have also seen a huge shift in adaptability. I think this is a real opportunity to press the reset button for the whole industry and for every individual or business to assess their models, not only financially but also personally. We have already seen some people emerging with a real positivity from this and I believe it is possible for those who have not found it yet to still achieve success in whatever path they will follow.
Being a young vet, you are used to having to adapt and challenge yourself regularly to deal with new cases you have never encountered before and only ever read about in a textbook. Then came Covid-19 to try and take the wind out of my sails! As with every new challenge, it’s scary at first but you learn to adapt, and adapt we have in the Veterinary sector. Not even a week into lockdown and only 2.5 years qualified, I was left in sole charge of my practice with my trusty and amazing nurse to hold my hand. There’s been blood, sweat and tears over the last 15 weeks but we are still standing and always adapting to every new challenge this virus throws our way. The most important thing to remember is, we are all in this together and I have been so grateful for the wisdom and advice of the more experienced vets I’ve had to call on during these trying weeks for the more challenging cases I’ve had to figure out and diagnose myself. Their willingness to help me highlights that when we are met with a challenge, it’s ok to ask for a helping hand. We are such a caring and adaptable profession and Covid-19 has truly shown this.
Unprecedented times. The pause button was hit on the world. Life within veterinary practice changed dramatically when Covid-19 started spreading. As a mixed practice, our farm work continued as usual but with social distancing and PPE becoming the norm. Doing a caesarian or castrating bulls in a surgical mask with goggles and a face shield is certainly a challenge! Thankfully, farmers were very understanding and continue to be. Our small animal work had to be quickly adapted to protect the clinic bubble – no clients allowed into the practice, constant disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, constant hand washing, phone consultations, taking histories through half open car windows, step counts going through the roof. And even as lockdown eases, some of these measures will become semi-permanent for the foreseeable future. In summary, we have survived. We adapted quickly as an essential profession, continuing to provide the necessary emergency care for our patients. The world slowed down. Allowing us to spend some extra time with our families and giving us time to get some painting or power washing done and discover the wonderful world of Zoom.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Although on farm, we always try to expect the unexpected, Covid-19 was definitely not on the list of expectations. But thinking on our feet and adapting to adverse scenarios has always been in our job description. At the beginning of lockdown, as many practices were reducing staffing levels to cover only essential services, it was reassuring and comforting that the work I carry out on a daily basis is deemed essential, although somewhat unfortunate that the staff reduction coincided with the busiest season of the year!
As a mixed vet, my workload stayed the same apart from the fact that we were on a weekly rota where one week you would be on farm calls and the next in the clinic with small animals. If you were on farm calls, you worked from home. Now we are all back in and smalls is nearly as busy as ever. The main struggle was trying to triage cases as owners’ concerns may differ drastically from ours. Measures were taken to protect staff from the outset and are still present. The best outcome of this situation is having a good atmosphere throughout the practice with everyone working so well together.
Working through lockdown has made me realise the thing I enjoy most about my job is chatting to clients. This is a realisation that has totally caught me off guard. I always saw that aspect of work as being just that – a part of work. Having that time with my clients, in large or small animal practice, has been taken away. Talking on the telephone or speaking outside at a distance with traffic in the background has removed that intimacy – the laughs and silly nonsense talked, speaking about things we have in common, cheering someone’s day up, getting to know each other on a personal level and feeling like part of the community has all been removed. I hope it comes back.
When lockdown happened, many vets were furloughed, many worked ridiculously long hours, and this is still the case on both sides for many. However, I was in a very different position, finding myself completely unemployed! I have been a self-employed locum vet now for just over three years and for the first time in my life, I was without any work. Completely understandably, the work that had already been booked was cancelled as clinics shut down to all but emergencies, holidays were not being taken, CPD cancelled and so on – so they simply didn’t need me. This was a stressful time with little to no income. Throughout this time however, I managed to train to become a meat inspector and got some work in pig and poultry abattoirs. This was a real chance at diversification, a huge eye opener to a completely different type of veterinary work and I was extremely grateful to get this opportunity. I had to just accept what it was and find other things to occupy my time. As it happened, we had just started lambing at home, so I was able to help a lot more than I can most years. Like many, I enjoyed the good weather and in no time, trees were cut, fences painted, spring cleaning done, and my windows were never as clean! Mid-May, work started to come in again as clinics were doing more and many now needed a bit of extra help to clear the backlog. It has been a challenging and worrying time for everyone for different reasons, but I was grateful to have my colleagues at Vet Support NI who were there to help me stay calm, control my anxiety and make rational decisions about what to do.
NI Veterinary Today would like to thank the young vets quoted above for their help in compiling this article.