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Rising to the Challenges of COVID-19

Rising to the Challenges of COVID-19

We have been fortunate enough to be able to remain open during the past several months. COVID-19 has brought no shortage of challenges. We would like to share some of the challenges of working through the COVID-19 pandemic has presented to us. We thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.

We want to thank our clients and community for their patience and support as we continue to navigate an ever-changing world with COVID-19.  Although our top priority is to partner with you in the care of your pet(s) who are an important part of your family, we must do so in a manner that allows for the utmost safety of our employees, patients, and clients.  

We have been fortunate enough to be able to remain open during the past several months. This has brought no shortage of challenges.  In order to achieve our goal to provide high quality medical care for our patients while keeping our staff and our clients safe, we have had to modify services in a way that fits the required guidelines for staying open.

Our AHNA team of veterinarians and support staff members embodies resilience and heart while working through staff shortages, as well as stepping up to the increased physical and emotional demands every day. Unfortunately, some of our beloved teammates have had to remove themselves from the workforce due to their need to protect their own health and safety, and they are greatly missed. We are inspired by and extremely proud of our team.  

We would like to share some of the challenges of working through the COVID-19 epidemic has presented to us. We thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.

Why we are still practicing curbside services, rather than having families come into AHNA? 

We want first to acknowledge that we miss having families in the building with their beloved pet(s). We love our clients and the special bonds we have formed. We understand the stress families may feel being apart from their beloved pet(s). Due to the nature of our work, we cannot maintain constant social distancing from each other. We often have to work close together when we're working with patients, sharing the doctors' office, answering the phones, performing surgical and dental procedures, etc.  If a family member were to come into the exam room with their pet(s), it would be impossible to maintain 6 feet of distance between all the individuals in the room. We know that proper mask usage reduces risk, so all staff members, including doctors wear them at all times, especially since we can't always social distance. We know if one of our team members becomes infected with the coronavirus, it can endanger our ability to continue to remain open to see you and your pet(s).  We look forward to the day we can invite families back into AHNA. Until then, please know that we are doing everything we can to decrease the stress with your pet(s). If you have concerns about being away from your pet(s) during a visit, please contact us in a timely manner before your visit. There are many things we can do ahead of time such as supplements or medications that can help alongside with other non-medical interventions. We can work together to plan how to make the best visit for your pet(s) while you're apart.

At this time we are still limiting families into AHNA during appointments, even if they have received the COVID-19 vaccines. Many of our staff members are not able to receive the vaccine at this time and with working as close together as veterinary medicine requires, we still have to practice safety protocols.

Why is it so hard to get through on the phone?

We are trying hard to answer everyone's calls in a timely manner. With the addition of the COVID-19 protocols and curbside service, our incoming call volume has dramatically increased. We have the added incoming and outgoing calls of client communication that are so important during appointments along with our regular volume of calls that include appointment scheduling and client communication.

During a visit, our clients are now interacting with our staff member on average 4-8 calls. The appointment starts with an arrive notification by phone call (or text) to alert our staff our client is here.

Do not alert us through facebook. Facebook is not monitored for scheduled appointment check-ins.

Once our Client Care Team (CCT) receives the arrival notification, the Exam Room Team (ERT) or Patient Care Team (PCT) are alerted with the important communication and location details. The ERT or PCT then will contact the family to review pertinent information, questions, or concerns for our veterinarians before bringing the pet(s) into the hospital for their scheduled appointment or treatment.

Sometimes, challenges arise: technology failures such as dropped calls, unanswered calls, or wrong numbers, or inaccurate parking lot numbers, or appointments running late due to a variety of reasons. These can cause appointments  to be delayed. We strive hard to help the day go smoothly, but sometimes we have some bumps in the road. We appreciate the support, understanding and patience our clients have shown during this unprecedented time.

As the appointment is ending or as soon as we can, we will bring your pet(s) back out to the vehicle.  We appreciate when families are readily available in the parking lot; this allows us to us to have your pet(s) wait with you during testing (if possible), bring your pet(s) out as soon as they are finished with their treatment, and overall ease of communication. After the appointment is completed, our Client Care Team will call to collect payment.

Many families have elected to use our patient portal and email to request prescription refills, or to request non-urgent appointments and non-urgent updates or questions.  Emails will be checked and replied to during business hours. Prescription requests and refill requests are taking 24 hours to complete, so please make sure to order with ample time before you run out. If you have a question or medication that needs to be refilled or answered within 24 hours, please call at 828-253-3393. 

* If you do not have a cellphone for the visit, please let our client care team know when you are making the appointment and they will notate it on your appointment. When you arrive, please knock on the front door to alert the client care team you are here. Please do not walk into the building. Please be prepared to wear a mask during interactions with our team, all communication will be done in person at the vehicle while social distancing as much as possible.

Can't I just tell someone in the parking lot that I am here?

Families may not realize that when the staff members or doctors are in our parking lot, they are in the middle of doing several things. Transporting patients to and from cars, having face to face (masked, of course) conversations, relaying information, remembering parking spaces, etc. In short our staff are juggling many things, so please be patient and wait for your own dedicated team member so that your pet(s) can receive the best care. If you have questions outside your appointment, we are happy to help, but by allowing us to finish our interaction with another client, we will be able to provide a more complete focus on your questions. Our staff may not be able to assist you right at that moment, but they will be able to relay information to staff members who can help.

Thank you for your support, patience and understanding. We know everyone is feeling stressed with the uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We want to assure you that we are working very hard and trying to do our best to provide the high level, low stress care for you and your best friends.  

Do you have any helpful tips?

Together, we can work as a team to provide the best care possible while minimizing separation from your pet(s). Here are some tips that many families have found helpful:

  • Arriving on time or even a little bit early gives you a little extra time to navigate our phone system.
  • Sending records prior to your appointment will allow your veterinarian time to review and start to devise a wellness plan to discuss at the time of the visit.
  • Combining medication pick up and appointments can time save and a trip, too! Check to see if you need refills of food or medications before the visit. If you need a refill, call ahead or tell our exam room team member at the start of the visit.
  • Bring your phone charger just in case your battery dies. Check to be sure the ringer is on; you may be like many of us who turn off the ringer in their daily life, and a missed call can delay communication and add time to the appointment.
  • Staying in the parking lot during the visit will speed up the visit. Once the veterinarian examines your pet(s), they will call you and go over their findings and recommendations; at this time  you can discuss with them if you have enough time to run an errand. Sometimes your pet(s) will be back with you quicker than you can run your errand and be back. Other times they may give you the okay to leave for a bit while tests or procedures are being performed. If you are able to leave, be sure to have your phone readily available. Missed calls can delay treatment. Be sure to let us know you are back and what spot you are in.
  • Summer is typically our busiest season, and COVID-19 protocols have increased the amount of time each visit takes. If your pet is sick, we will make every effort to get them in quickly. If you are scheduling well-pet visits, plan ahead and be prepared that it may be a few weeks before you can see your preferred doctor. Thank you for your patience and understanding with the scheduling.

We know everyone is feeling stressed with the uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please know that inside our doors, we are thankful that we are able to remain open to serve you and your pet(s). We are working hard to continue giving excellent medical care and low-stress handling while keeping everyone safe and healthy. Thank you for your support, patience and understanding

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