Days are longer, spring has sprung and summer is just around the corner.

With the COVID-19 pandemic making everything more complex, this usually busy season for clinics and hospitals poses even more challenges to animal health professionals and practice owners.

From preparing your team to improving communication with clients, Senani Ratnayake, Director of Learning and Engagement at Vet Alliance/GlobalVet, answers common questions and provides tips to better prepare for your practice’s busiest time of the year.

Senani Ratnayake, BSc RVT
Director of Learning and Engagement
Vet Alliance/GlobalVet

How should we prepare our team?

Days are longer and, while parts of the country are still getting snow, I have been assured that summer is just around the corner! As we round out our second year of pandemic challenges, we can confidently tell our teams that we enter this parasite season in much better form than we did last year.  While we continue to be busy, dealing with staffing shortages and various regional public health regulations, the majority of our clients are back into the rhythm of preventative pet care, and our experiences leave us better equipped to manage the busy season.

While last year we were stuck with many clients who had not utilized parasite prevention in the previous year (and/or been inconsistent with diagnostic testing), this year we are playing catch up a little bit less. That said, we do not want to miss any more opportunities to get patients on the appropriate products and having the appropriate testing performed.

Have you scheduled a team meeting yet? There’s still time – so make it happen! Holding a team meeting to get everybody aligned is a very important first step in tackling parasite season. You will need to agree on protocols (potentially in advance of the team meeting, which may require a doctors’ meeting) and confirm your approach as a team.

Some points for consideration are:

1. What products are we recommending this year?
2. If our recommendations are different from last year – why have we changed products (from the standpoint of benefits for the pet and client as this is what your team will have to message) and what will we tell clients who want to remain on the product they have given in previous years?
3. What are our recommendations for pets who did not have diagnostic parasite screening last year, but were due to? How will we communicate this need to clients?
4. How will we educate clients who gave preventative medications but started later in the season and so did not have coverage for the entire season?
5. How will we handle clients that do not feel screening is necessary based on perceived lack of exposure to/minimal risk of parasites?
6. How should we handle patients we haven’t seen in over a year that have over-due vaccinations? What are our protocols around dispensing, vaccinations and who will require examination?

I am afraid of the onslaught of clients who are going to have questions during parasite season. What can we do to control the number of calls and emails we are anticipating?

Covid-19 has positively pushed many hospitals to communicating more often, using different mediums with their clients. Use this to your advantage – they want to, and expect to hear from you! Communication is key to managing client expectations and a pro-active multi-pronged approach (i.e. website, social media and email) is best. Ensure that your team is aware of resources available to them as calls or emails come in (including client letters or posts) so that they can direct clients to these resources (or send them out) as necessary.

Important details to consider:

  • The basics – the dangers of parasites in pets (and associated human dangers), types of parasites that warrant concern, which species of pets are susceptible to what parasites
  • How missed preventative medications may have put their pet at increased risk, and missed testing will have eliminated an opportunity to identify issues
  • What your recommendations are for parasite season based on pet species and risks of exposure
  • What types of testing you recommend, paying particular attention to pets who have missed medications. Highlight the benefits of a more robust blood profile for screening (we are drawing blood anyway) and always include the importance of a fecal – easy for clients to obtain and a best practice for patient care (and client health!) without significantly impacting team workflow.
  • Remind clients of any covid-19 protocols in place. While you are living your protocols daily, there is a good chance things have changed since the last time the client was in. Be clear on what they should expect and encourage them to communicate any concerns to your team in advance of the appointment.

I know communication is important – both with the team AND with my clients – but I never seem to land on the right wording. Help?!

In the words of Simon Sinek, always Start With Why! Put yourself in the shoes of the audience and think about what they need to hear, from their perspective. Why should they care? Why is this important? What’s in it for them? Telling a client to bring in a fecal is not nearly as impactful as explaining that pets can carry intestinal parasites which will cause harm to their health while also potentially affecting the people in the household. Yuck! Telling the team that you have changed products without helping them with the understanding (or Why), and the language that they will need in order to communicate these changes to clients, doesn’t help anybody.

If you keep the “Why” in mind, the words will come! When in doubt as to whether you have covered the right content, ask an open-ended question, “What questions do you have?” or “What are you most worried about?”. This will help to bring things of value to light.

Contact our team today to find out how we can support you.

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