The year 2020 has been a busy and challenging time for the veterinary profession. Over the coming weeks we’ll share some perspectives from vets and others within the veterinary industry about their predictions and hopes for the year ahead.

Dr Nicole Laurence is the Hospital Director of Foothills Animal Hospital in Perth. “The pandemic has caused stress for veterinary staff, and we have all had to adapt quickly and many have just coped on a week-to-week basis. In 2021, we need to look at more sustainable ways to manage the new normal.”

“Pet owners will seek out vet hospitals who can continue to give excellent clinical care standards plus provide opportunities for great connections with clients. We are going to have to embrace telemedicine and using digital platforms to connect with pet owners. Whether this is through virtual consultations, videos of pets being sent to owners while in hospital or new contactless technologies yet to come. We also need to review the ways we manage staff to provide a workplace where they are reassured that the new protocols and policies in place give them a good safety net to provide stable and safe employment”, said Dr Laurence.

Other areas where Dr Laurence predicts the industry may also see change are around hospital design and staffing levels. “Whether through making the most of outdoor areas, having more barriers in place in areas where customers are present or having viewing windows into examination areas – these may all be modifications that will occur. The days of owners holding animals for treatments may also be coming to an end. Veterinary to nurse staffing ratios will have to increase and changes to pricing structures will also have to be modified to accommodate this change. The changes can be positive, and we may see improvements in time management and efficiency”, said Dr Laurence. 

“From a mental health point of view I think the industry is fortunate that we can still have connections between staff delivering clinical care compared to negotiating the effects of loneliness and worker isolation that other industries are facing. We need to embrace this and make the most of it. These are precious connections that we have in the workplace, and we can really help by checking in with each other to make sure those around us are doing okay.”

“There will still be huge challenges in 2021 and I think we might see more employees struggling with the constant stress of the pandemic. To quote author Simon Sinek: ‘Leadership is not about being in charge, leadership is about taking care of those in your charge’. Employers may have to look at providing Employee Wellness Programs and having Mental Health First Aiders embedded within practices that are trained in the early detection of signs of those that might be struggling with mental health whether it be work related or not”, said Dr Laurence.