Relief Vets and COVID-19 Part II Watching Your Cluster

I know I’m a relief vet, but I’m going to say it anyway. The relief vet
community is amazing. And this coronavirus situation is proving the truth of
this statement. Relief vets are well suited to handle this moment with grace
and professionalism. It’s a moment that requires flexibility – got it, collegiality –
yep, responsibility – uh huh, and an ability to navigate the unknown – check.

A few days ago, I shared my thoughts in a blog on cancellations after I had
a conversation with my “Awesome Relief Vet Friend from a Coronavirus
Hot Zone”. Relief vets may feel the need to cancel their shifts for human
safety or they may have kids who are out of school and no access to child
care. Veterinary practices may have to cancel their relief vets due to
practice closures or waning appointments.

Another amazing relief vet and Relief Rover member, Dr. Shelby Agnew,
generously shared this letter she composed for her practice clients
regarding cancellations.

“In light of the current pandemic crisis, I am contacting all
owners/managers who have booked dates in March and April regarding
COVID19.

I would like you to have maximum flexibility to make decisions for the safety
of your staff and clients; with this in mind, I am waiving all cancellation fees
for any dates booked in the next 6 weeks. I do request that you provide at
least 24 hours notice if you decide to cancel a booking.

Currently, I do not anticipate cancellations from my end. However, please
understand that if I am exhibiting symptoms consistent with this novel virus
or have a known exposure, I will follow the latest CDC guidelines regarding
quarantine/isolation procedures. In this event, I will communicate with you at
the earliest opportunity.

Finally, I am providing a link to the AVMA’s information page on the COVID-
19 outbreak. It is being updated daily and includes both information regarding pet health
and best practices on keeping our teams and community safe.

Please remember that as veterinarians we are part of the public health
community through the One Health Initiative. I take this commitment very
seriously and I know you do too. Feel free to contact me with any questions
or concerns you may have.

With careful consideration,”

Well done, Shelby. And thank you for sharing this with the relief community.

Keep in mind, however, that it’s also a valid decision to enforce your cancellation policy. Each relief vet needs to consider the situation for themselves based on their relationship with the clinic, the ability to find other work, and/or their current financial situation. After all, cancellation policies are meant to protect your income. The point is that we need to consider these situations on a case-by-case basis and support each other in our decisions.

I followed up with my Awesome Relief Vet Friend from a Coronavirus Hot
Zone and she shared an interaction with a practice where she was
scheduled to do relief. She handled the situation so professionally and
generously that I thought it was also worth sharing.

She let the practice owner know that she was looking forward to working
with them soon but politely asked if they had the recommended protocols in
place for social distancing. She explained that as an independent
contractor who works in multiple practices, her potential exposure is wide and that
taking all the precautions to protect herself, staff, clients, and the general
public is in everyone’s best interests. When the practice owner responded
that they didn’t have protocols in place my friend shared this helpful
algorithm courtesy of Clinician’s Brief and Dr. Scott Weese. In the end, they
mutually agreed to cancel the shift, but the practice owner was appreciative
of the advice and my friend did her duty to protect herself and her
community.

She said to me after, “I’ve got to watch my cluster!” It’s true. As roaming
practitioners, we increase our potential exposure and those we may expose
with every practice we work. If we were to test positive, it would be a large
cluster of people that would need to be quarantined as a result.

No matter whether you are a relief vet faced with the challenge of electing
to cancel shifts for personal and public safety or whether you’re involuntarily losing work
due to this pandemic, I know that we’ll continue to support each other in
the weeks and months to come. I agree with Shelby. We’re all part of the
public health community and I know that we’ll continue to adjust, adapt, and bend to make the best decisions for our communities, practices, pet-owners, patients, and ourselves.

***

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) has been signed by the President into law. See sections 7002 and 7004 for information on government support for the self-employed.

For more information on COVID-19 check out the CDC , AVMA , and
Clinician’s Brief .

Relief Veterinarian General

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2 thoughts on “Relief Vets and COVID-19 Part II Watching Your Cluster

  1. Susan Cousins on Reply

    Just started my relief business in earnest and have already had my shifts reduced. The clinic has implemented urgent/emergent care only, no clients in the office (tech brings patient in and we communicate with client on a cell phone) and barebones staff. They also cut out evening hours. My schedule was cut from 3 days a week to 1. While the owner was formulating this plan I made sure she knew I understood that these are extraordinary circumstances, that her staff comes first and that I would not enforce my cancellation policy. I have to admit, however, I am concerned about my own livelihood. As independent contractors I do not know that we will be elgible for any of the relief packages the government is putting together except for getting a check.

  2. Cindy Trice on Reply

    Hi Susan.

    I’m so sorry to hear that. I understand how stressful it is to be worried about having an adequate income.

    I’ve reached out to my legal connections to see if I can get some clarity on the government assistance for self-employed people. I’ve read the applicable sections as referenced in the blog post, but it’s hard to understand exactly what the practical benefit may be for us. I will update everyone if I can get some useful information.

    Do you have other practices that you work for? I haven’t had any cancellations yet but I’m finding that others are actually needing the help right now – especially in the ER’s – maybe because their primary vets are staying home. I’m not sure why, but I’m getting requests.

    Telehealth may be another option. Airvet – airvet.com – is one that I’ve done a little work for but I know there are many others as well. In fact, does the practice that canceled on you have telehealth? If so, maybe you could offer to take calls for them. I know a lot of practices are frantically signing up for telehealth services right now.

    I’m always willing to brainstorm ideas with you and if nothing else, we are all here to support each other.

    Wishing you the best during this stressful time.

    Cindy

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