In February of this year, I was chosen to become the new managing DVM of the hospital where I currently work. I was to take over the role April 1st, 2020. At the time I had been out of school for almost 8 years. I was excited. I had so many ideas. I wanted to change so much. I wanted the clinic to become loved by all. I wanted us to grow and become like a family. And then… COVID-19 hit.
A few weeks before I was to take over as MDVM, the news was spreading in regards to veterinary clinics potentially having to shut down due to the pandemic. This was mid-March so it had not really affected our area but all of the doctors were getting news from the AVMA and local representatives that we need to have a plan in place. Even though I wasn’t officially the managing DVM, everyone kept looking to me to create a plan of attack. With the help of another colleague and the support of corporate, I put out a message for the clinic and our clients regarding what changes may need to be incorporated during this time. We wanted people to be prepared if we had to go curbside or limit entry into the clinic. Unfortunately, a few days later I was told I was overreacting and overstepping my boundaries. I was defeated. I was just trying to make the staff feel safe during an uncertain time. I’d rather be over-prepared than underprepared. But I was told to hold my horses and not take the virus too seriously.
A day later, our office manager put herself in quarantine due to recent travel out of state. Three days later, our state went into non-essential business lockdown. A day later, twelve members of our staff went on furlough due to having young children, sick/immune-compromised parents, and lack of resources for their kids during the school shutdown. The next day, the current managing DVM became sick and went on quarantine for two weeks. It wasn’t even April, but I was pushed to handle what was going on. I was asked to step up during this unprecedented time.
April 1st came and went. I still haven’t fully received any major training for the job. With the lockdown, most of the corporate staff were forced to work from home, which meant no “in person” training for me. The weekend MDVM training courses were canceled. I couldn’t even rely on the former MDVM to help out because they had gone down to part-time and we had opposite schedules. I can’t blame corporate either – they were giving me weekly updates and holding phone conferences to help with any issues that were occurring. My main goal was to keep the staff from quitting and setting the clinic on fire. It was tough. The sheer amount of angry clients and non-clients was outrageous. I can’t even count the number of times my staff was verbally abused over flea medication. We all felt mistreated every day, and sometimes it was hard to get through the day.
It is now almost June. The county is partially reopening. Most of our staff is back in action. We are still faced with a lot of angry clients and non-clients daily. I am still figuring out how to run a hospital. But I think if I can make it through a pandemic then when things get back to normal (or as close to normal as we can get) this job will be a piece of cake. Who am I kidding? It is going to be rough, but I am stronger because of the crisis and the help of all of my staff during this difficult time. You never know what you can achieve when you are put in the hot seat. I think one pandemic is enough for me though.
Stay safe everyone!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Nicole Palumbo is a 2012 graduate from the University of Illinois. She is originally from the south side of Chicago but chose to move to Northwest Pennsylvania for her first job out of veterinary school. She works with small animals, exotics and also volunteers her time at the local wildlife rescue, typically performing surgeries and exams on the many raptors that are admitted to the facility. Recently she has taken a job with an emergency/general practice closer to Pittsburgh. With time she hopes to focus more time on wildlife medicine and also obtain specialization in feline medicine.