The Moments that Make Us Better Veterinarians—A ConfessionNov 29 2023
By Holly Sawyer, DVM Those are pearls that were his eyes, Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea change, into something rich and strange… -Shakespeare, The Tempest When I graduated veterinary school in 1999, I thought with startled satisfaction, “I’ve arrived. I have achieved THE dream. My calling, my career, and my identity are set.” I headed off into the wild blue sea of private practice, expecting a straight-line voyage toward a sunset forty years in the future, as yet unaware of the ceaseless currents that propel medicine forward and the rogue waves that submerge you long enough to change you forever. Pain Like every other grad who headed straight into general practice, I stepped out of the Ivory Tower and tripped headfirst into “the way things are really done.” Cats were often boxed down with straight Iso for neuters. If pre-op injections were used at all, they consisted of atropine and [big: read 0.5 ml/cat] doses of acepromazine to ensure a docile induction. Add a squirt of butorphanol in there, given a solid 3-4 hours prior to surgery, and we felt pretty good about ourselves. At best, we used ketamine/valium like water; at worst, we used speed to flush stinging abscesses, clip painfully melting hot spots, and otherwise get ‘er done. Analgesia, far from being considered essential, was instead frowned upon. The prevailing wisdom in the real world was that pain inhibited overactivity, thus decreasing complications. With thinking like that, morality became a close friend to the status quo. I practiced this way for a good seven years. Yes, I felt terrible when a dog stood hunched and trembling, unwilling to lie down after abdominal surgery. But that would pass, and this was safer than using drugs we didn’t trust or keeping controlled drug logs we didn’t understand. The patients just had to endure for a little while longer before they were back to their old selves. I did not recognize my first paradigm shift in practice until it was well upon me. I’m not an early adopter by nature; neither were the owners of my practice. There were murmurings of a seismic shift in general veterinary practice at CE events. Anecdotal stories flourished from close veterinary friends in bigger cities. Veterinary Information Network, still in its relative infancy, saw an explosion of discussions on the topic. The upheaval was all about analgesia. It wasn’t just gaining popularity. It was the new standard of care. The body of evidence in favor of proactive pain control soon towered over every general practitioner, blotting out the sun. Our next step was clear. If we wanted to call ourselves good veterinarians, we needed to order morphine for dogs and buprenorphine for cats. That was the beginning for us. Our protocol soon expanded to include polypharmacy, nuanced timing of administration, and a growing focus on pre-op bloodwork and intra-op IV fluids due to the use of injectable NSAIDs. All of this happened because pain control was not only the best medicine physiologically, but it had unequivocally earned its place on the moral high ground as well. I felt…released…as if I had been breathing through a mouth gag for seven years and could finally fill my lungs. This was wholly right and good. I didn’t realize how wrong the old way was until it was held up in contrast to the new way. And I didn’t just give pain meds to my patients. I became a veterinarian who was ardently proactive about pain control. In a flash, I progressed from doing a new thing to embracing a new identity. I was changed—and proud to have been made better. Fear When Fear Free came around, I was in fact a fiercely ardent early adopter. I was recently asked why I believe in Fear Free. After some soul searching and mental sifting, the answer came to me in a flash. It was the giraffe. For those of you who have taken the Fear Free modules, do you remember that slide? It shows a giraffe munching lazily on a bucketful of lettuce and carrots as the zoo handler calmly trims a front hoof. The next slide shows the quintessential WWE photo of three vet techs sprawled on the treatment room floor, pinning a 70-pound dog to the ground, as a fourth tries to clip the toenails. I saw those slides juxtaposed together, and I felt shame. Shame. I had been on that treatment room floor, getting raked in the belly by a flailing back leg or pinning the dog’s head to the linoleum as foam bubbled through the blue nylon muzzle and anal gland juice spurted out the other end. Or worse, I had simply told the vet techs and assistants to get the nail trim done and then left the treatment area altogether, leaving them to obey or fail. Seeing that giraffe (who was entirely too big to bully) allow a hoof trim in such peace felt like a slap. I could no longer accept the excuse, “This is just the way things are done.” I had seen a better way. I bought peanut butter and canned cheese, pretzels and paper plates. I sent home pre-visit sedatives. I did new things, not just to do new things, but because I had changed my identity. I had become a different veterinarian. I had become better. Availability A move to a different state provided an opportunity to transition out of private practice and into a management position for an after-hours veterinary triage company. One second, I was wearing the white coat; the next, I was on the other side of the exam table. At every visit to my local clinic, I have done my best to support the veterinary team. I bring cookies and write thank you notes and accept delays with a friendly smile. I know what it’s like to wear their shoes. But I am also getting an exquisite feel of the pet owner’s shoes. I live in a rural area. I chose this; I must own it. But it presented me with a singular crisis when my adult Golden Retriever sloughed his gut for no good reason one night at 2AM and dragged himself outside during a winter blizzard to die. I had to decide between hazarding a 90-minute drive through the storm to the nearest emergency vet or muddling through the night on our own. My boy looked bad. Bad bad. But I didn’t want to die in a ditch on a desolate, frozen highway either. I called the emergency facility to give them a heads up that I might be heading in, but my fear of the blizzard won. Angus made it, thanks wholly to the 2L of SQ fluids I had in my home stash that bought us time until my local clinic opened six hours later. But it was scary, and I was a professional with resources. It is a hundred times worse for the regular pet owner. Through the triage company, I’ve heard pet owners calling their clinic in a furious panic but leaving the call calm and grateful, with a plan and some semblance of control over their circumstances. It’s all because the veterinary technician walked them through life-saving first aid and then directed them to the on-call doctor or closest ER clinic. I know the power of these calls firsthand. They can be miraculous. If I were still in private practice, I wonder if hearing one of those calls for the first time would be a sea change moment for me, a transition from the old way to the new. Would it stand shoulder to shoulder with my boss’s announcement that we were ordering morphine for the first time? Would it hit me like the giraffe eating her salad? Is continuity of care—giving your clients after-hours access to advice and direction while you sleep—your next opportunity to embrace a new identity and become a better veterinarian? Only you can say.
5 Tips for Managing Veterinary Stress (with Dr. Shawna Garner)Nov 24 2023
You don’t need me to tell you that it’s a difficult time in the veterinary world. You probably don’t need to see any statistics about the difficulties in hiring and maintaining staff, and I imagine you’ve heard plenty about burnout. So this week we’re going to try something a little different. I want to take a look at how one solo DVM maintains work-life balance and takes care of herself, even when things get hectic. Dr. Shawna Garner owns and operates a small clinic in her hometown in central Illinois. She serves both the town and the surrounding area, and maintains a small staff of three employees. It’s a lot to juggle, and she walked me through the ways that she manages stress and maintains a healthy work-life balance. Dr. Shawna is the host of our new show, the VetHealth podcast. Alongside her tips for handling mental and emotional health, our first episode explores the toolset she uses to manage her clinic, her advice for young DVMs just entering the profession, and the broader conversations we need to be having in the VetMed world. You can find the whole episode here. 1. Take a beat As a starting point, Shawna recommends setting aside time for mindfulness in whatever form works for you. For her, that’s meditation, but the same process can take a lot of different forms. Relaxing hobbies like knitting, painting, and yoga can all be helpful ways to destress outside of the clinic. During the day, simple breathing exercises can help reduce stress, increase blood flow, and keep you focused. The 4-7-8 technique involves inhaling for four seconds, holding for seven, and exhaling for eight. It’s a small practice that you can maintain throughout the day. Getting out of the clinic, either to take a walk or just sit in your car for a couple minutes, can also give you the space you need. Generally, Shawna recommends taking a beat and refocusing when your stress level starts going up, though she recognizes that can be difficult for associates at a busy clinic. 2. Intentionally aside set time to detach Shawna doesn’t do social media on Sundays- she calls this “anti-social” Sunday. The focus here is on unplugging and connecting with herself and her family. During that time, her phone is only for making calls. It’s not easy to step away from social media, though, even for a single day. The Jed Foundation recommends turning off push notifications, setting your phone screen to grayscale, and deleting social media apps to help in cutting back screen time. 3. Let it go Shawna recommends picking your battles and recognizing the parts of a pet’s health journey where you aren’t in control. Rather than trying to change a pet owner’s mind about treatment or diagnostics if they can’t afford it, Shawna steps back, respecting and supporting their decision. The pet owner is the decision maker, and Shawna knows that taking too much ownership over individual pets is emotionally draining. Here’s how she describes the situation: “A lot of times, veterinarians will take on a patient personally… they want to do absolutely everything and if the pet owner can’t, they feel the guilt.” Long-term, holding onto that guilt can lead to compassion fatigue and burnout. Similarly, when she leaves the clinic, Shawna makes a point of separating herself mentally. That might mean reading, playing video games with her son, or walking outside for thirty minutes to an hour. It’s a different kind of letting go, but the focus is still on creating a separation between your working life and your emotional life. 4. Treat your time as valuable How many times has a friend or family member called you to ask for help with a pet? How many times have you been tagged in a Facebook post looking for pet advice? Have you received Messenger requests from strangers asking for support? Any time you’ve helped someone in one of these situations, Shawna argues that you’ve been providing telemedicine. The question, then, is whether you charged for that support. It can feel uncomfortable, but offering this kind of help for free can cut into your already limited free time. Here’s how Shawna thinks about it: “You still have to assess that patient, you still have to assess the situation, formulate a plan. That’s worth something. We are worth something.” Another way to think about it: when you respond to these requests, you’re working. Valuing your time and pushing responses to standard in-clinic hours can help you to maintain clearer boundaries. 5. Use the right tools Thus far, we’ve mostly been looking at individual steps for addressing stress and burnout. The issues that most veterinarians are facing can’t really be solved on an individual level, though. For many clinics, the problems are structural, and one key way to fill in the gaps is with technology. Shawna uses Talkatoo for her medical dictation service. It’s a huge time-saver that allows her to move more quickly through the demands of her clinic. For her online pharmacy needs, she uses Vetsource, which keeps revenue in-clinic. Finally, she partners with GuardianVets to cut back phone overload and provide after hours care without needing to be on-call herself. If you’re struggling with burnout, think about the toolset you’re using currently and whether there are processes that you could streamline or offload. Hungry for more? Subscribe to the VetHealth Podcast wherever you like to listen! We’ve got a packed season on the way and we’re excited to share this journey with you.
(Re)Defining Continuity of CareNov 9 2023
Continuity of care can feel like a trendy buzzword. It’s one of those phrases that gets tossed around in both the VetMed and human medical worlds, and a casual Google search will net you dozens of definitions. They’ll generally focus around the need for an ongoing relationship between patient and caregiver and leave it at that. Continuity of care is the gold standard for medicine, and more and more pet owners are demanding this level of focused treatment. They want access to care that extends beyond their yearly wellness checks and a team that’s there for them during 2 a.m. emergencies. Here’s the key tension: meeting that client demand requires a concerted effort across your entire clinic, and most veterinary hospitals aren’t prepared to provide the necessary support. The goal of this article is to lay out the major elements of the relationship between your practice and your patients and see how you can use each interaction to build out a meaningful, long term connection. What is Continuity of Care? There’s only so much that we can do at the point of care. When we perform a surgery, we’re addressing an immediate need, but the healing process is full of both pitfalls and opportunities related to the patient’s health. Continuity of care means a consistent relationship between the pet, the owner, and the clinic throughout the life of the animal. I think of continuity of care in terms of five pillars: Consistent communication Excellent customer service Owner compliance Access to medical advice Follow through Here’s what these pillars look like in practice (and how to implement them). 1. Consistent Communication From new client intake to end of life care, it’s vital that we’re able to communicate with our clients consistently and effectively. That starts with an excellent staff that’s able to provide great service to both patients and clients. When hiring, we need to prioritize both a person’s skill set and their emotional intelligence. For a lot of clinics, automating elements of this process is a key way to build it into their operations. You can use tools for automated appointment reminders, create paper handouts with your recommendations for day-to-day concerns, and use a chat tool to cut back the amount of time that actually needs to be spent on the phone. Of course, all of this falls apart if your clinic is hard to reach. Long hold times, missed calls, and limited channels for communication all turn this into a hassle for both your hospital and your clients. Clinics that struggle with communication will struggle with providing the kind of consistency that’s key to continuity of care. Look for opportunities to cut back the number of calls that your staff needs to deal with day-to-day. 2. Excellent customer service It might not be instantly apparent how customer service ties into continuity of care. Fundamentally, though, it’s about the ways that we approach the emotional side of practicing medicine. When we help clients to feel heard, understood, and cared for, we’re establishing the kind of relationship they can lean on. When we have the forethought to anticipate a pet owner’s needs, we’re making it easier to seek care. We’re also opening space for the smaller questions and concerns that are a huge part of the journey of owning a pet. This starts with hiring and continues with training over time. It helps to have a clear sense of how you want clients to feel when they enter your clinic, and build that emotional experience into the ways that you navigate calls and follow ups. In my clinic, I like to follow up after every visit to make sure the pet did not have any complications (yes, even with vaccine appointments), making sure preventives were given and that the pet ingested them without a fuss. It is a lot of communication and it does take a substantial team effort, but we can easily alter therapies and even lend emotional support to owners after traumatic experiences. It lets them know we are here and that we care. Essentially, strong relationships are the foundation of continuity of care. It’s about building a meaningful level of trust between the client and the clinic, which is vital when it comes to discussions of care. 3. Owner Compliance Continuity of care is rooted in the ability of caregivers to work alongside owners. That means following up to make sure that the medical therapy provided is having a favorable response, and making alterations if it isn’t. It also means working to bring owners onboard with clinical recommendations, even when they’re not initially convinced. How do we ensure owner compliance? Education is always the starting point. We need to communicate clearly, and provide resources wherever possible. If our hard work and recommendations are ignored the moment a patient gets home, then the care provided will be incomplete. If I’m struggling to get aligned with a pet owner, I tend to use analogies that the owner can easily understand. I discuss the disease process in a way that makes sense to them and then discuss care options. I let them know what is available and that they have choices. I do not know their financial health, so remembering that if an owner cannot afford therapy, it’s ok I support them emotionally and we try alternatives so they can afford therapy and the pet receives care. 4. Accessibility of Care Can a pet owner reach your practice in their time of need? Pet health doesn’t follow a 9-5 schedule, and owners are hesitant when they can’t tell if they need to make an expensive trip to the ER. That can result in visits to Dr. Google, unnecessary trips to the ER, or putting off necessary treatment due to uncertainty. I’m not recommending that you spend your entire life on-call, though. Instead, look for a partner that can provide support to your clients when you’re not there. Whether or not you personally see late night emergencies, providing a support system after hours for your clients means that they have the information they need to make an informed decision about their pet. It’s about maintaining the care for the pet within the walls of your hospital, even when you’re not around. If you’re not able to provide this support and your clients have other options, they’re likely to go with the clinic that can support them in their scariest moments. The opposite is true as well, though- I’ve had many clients specifically reach out to thank me for the support they received after hours, which drives long-term loyalty to my clinic. 5. Follow through This is the culmination of your efforts when it comes to continuity of care. Here’s what I mean by follow through: Ensuring that recommendations are being followed Ensuring that medical therapy is favorable Answering questions about therapy Scheduling follow up exams These steps are inherently time-consuming. For clinics that are already feeling overwhelmed, it can be hard to plan for this additional level of support. There are two things to keep in mind here. First, if you’ve built up strong processes for the other four pillars, following through is a natural outgrowth of those structures. Second, if you’re taking steps to automate certain processes and using virtual tools to streamline others, following through doesn’t need to be a hassle. Simple follow up exams can be conducted via video call, rather than taking up an exam room. Basic email sequences can communicate reminders post-surgery. In my clinic, I like to send text reminders. It can be automated and the responses are downloaded into the medical record. One last thing to remember: help is available. The biggest thing holding clinics back from providing true continuity of care is the misapprehension that they need to do everything alone. GuardianVets is the leading partner for clinics that believe a better standard of care is possible. If you’re ready to streamline your operations and drive a new level of connection with your clients, you can sign up for a consultation below.
How GuardianVets Maintains a Gold-Standard Triage TeamOct 31 2023
We’re incredibly proud of our team at GuardianVets. There’s a good reason for that- we’ve spent years building up an experienced, dedicated staff. We’ve also spent years fine-tuning our clinical standards for triage, honing our customer service guidelines, and shaping our operations to provide fast, efficient support when pet owners call in. Let’s break down what that looks like in practice. We’ll dig into our hiring standards and our training processes to see why GuardianVets is a team you can trust. What does it take to join the team? First: our hiring manager, Sarai, is a vet tech with ten years of experience in the industry. She maintains extremely high standards from the very beginning of the interview process. To even be considered, candidates must have graduated from an AVMA-accredited school. We want our team to know how to handle the next steps when dealing with an animal in crisis, but we also want them to know why they’re making the recommendations they do. We also require that candidates have at least three years of emergency room experience. It’s important to us that our team knows how to stay cool, compassionate, and focused in fast-paced, high stress situations. From there, candidates must pass a quiz to interview with our team. This is a blend of questions about triage style, the candidate’s responses to different situations, as well as general interview questions. We look for team members that have a rigorous understanding of clinical procedure, as well as the ability to compassionately communicate with pet owners. Our philosophy is that every case is significant, even if it’s not medically urgent- we believe the question is not if a patient should be seen, but when. What’s the GuardianVets training process? If the interview goes well, the candidate moves into the training stage, where they work with our training team to learn the ropes. This team is made up of credentialed veterinary technicians with over 50 years of combined experience. They support new hires through a series of courses focused on empathetic service, our clinical guidelines for triage, and the ins-and-outs of using our software platform. By the end, candidates are experts on providing compassionate service, triaging cases based on species and clinical symptoms, and using our software to follow the standards of our partner hospitals. At this point, they must pass a series of quizzes before moving into one-on-one training. Candidates are partnered with experienced GV technicians to shadow on shifts and work through a series of mock calls. The candidates that pass this stage start taking live calls with a coach observing and supporting as needed. It’s an intensive process from beginning to end, with built-in accountability at every level. How do we maintain a high standard of quality? Transparency is one of our core values at GV, and that’s true both internally and with our customers. All of GV’s calls are recorded and documented within the platform. This allows our customers to clearly understand what’s happening on calls to their hospitals and it’s also a key way that we handle quality assurance internally. We do regular call reviews to ensure consistency. Beyond that, we err on the side of caution. If we’re not sure about a case, we refer it so there’s never a question of an animal getting less care than it needs. Finally, our Chief Veterinary Officer, Shawna Garner, keeps us at the cutting edge of best practices in the veterinary industry. The result? Well, the kind of service you can expect from GuardianVets is genuinely unmatched in the industry. Our team is highly experienced and trained to work from your protocols, so you can trust that your clients and patients are receiving only the highest standard of care.
You Don’t Have to Do It Alone: Why Virtual Task Utilization is the New StandardOct 20 2023
Folks, we need to talk about the division of labor. It’s one of those unsexy topics that most veterinarians have a hard time getting excited about. I’m right there with you- I studied medicine to practice medicine, not to research Excel alternatives. Here’s the thing: building well-structured processes can have huge knock-on effects across your hospital. If there’s one thing that separates healthy clinics from unhealthy ones, it’s the way that we divvy up the different tasks that need to get done. And sure, every veterinary clinic outsources some parts of its operations. Chances are, your hospital uses an external CPA. Why do we outsource items? Generally, we do this because certain tasks are outside of our core competencies. We provide amazing care to our patients, but we’re not expert accountants. In addition to outsourcing, so many of our daily task items can be handled virtually. We call this virtual task utilization. Do you know the most commonly used virtual tool in VetMed? Your PIMS! Maybe you’re using a couple of other tools to simplify and streamline different parts of your operations, but there’s a whole world of opportunity out there for clinics that are ready to make the change. So let’s talk about the ways that we can outsource and make certain tasks virtual for smoother operations and happier clinics overall. Why Handle Some Tasks Virtually? It’s simple: these options are faster, more efficient, and free up space in your clinic to focus on the essentials. For processes like overnight triage, virtual outsourcing avoids staffing and training headaches while providing lifesaving service for your community. Just as a quick example, my clinic uses: Talkatoo for medical dictation services. This saves time on medical records by automatically transcribing my voice into script that can go directly into the PIMS. Vetsource for online pharmacy needs, streamlining online client prescription requests back to my practice. This keeps revenue streams within my clinic. GuardianVets for after hours triage support. This gives my patients access to care without adding on-call hours to my schedule. It also drives revenue by preventing unnecessary trips to the ER. So What Can We Handle Virtually? Let’s start with the tasks that absolutely need to be done in-clinic. In-Clinic Tasks: Greeting a client PE Diagnostics Physical treatments Cleaning Physical care for patients Sorting mail It’s a surprisingly short list, right? With the constant hustle and bustle of running a clinic, it’s easy to forget that not everything needs to happen within your four walls. So what can we handle virtually? Well… a lot. Scheduling appointments Follow up calls Rx refill requests Triage Call back reminders Check-in forms Deposits/pre-pay To see the change in practice, let’s break down the structure of an ordinary visit. A client calls to set up an appointment. They get a callback reminder a day or so before, and when they arrive at the hospital, they sit with their pet in the lobby as they work through the check-in forms. Either before or after the appointment, your staff runs their credit card to make a payment. A couple days later, one of your CSRs calls to conduct a follow up. A week after that, the client calls your clinic at 9 p.m., anxious because they’ve run out of medication and they’re convinced that they need a refill ASAP. At each step in this process, your clinic has opportunities to streamline and offload labor. Imagine the difference: A client requests an appointment through an external phone service and receives an automated reminder a day or so before. They fill out the check-in forms and make their deposit before arriving at the clinic, so they can head right in. When they call late at night, the call is routed to an external triage team. The refill request is submitted as a form that your team can handle in the morning. The Result? Well, it depends on your goals. If your practice is overwhelmed, reducing the number of elements you’re taking care of in-clinic gives your staff some room to breathe. No more losing techs to cover the phone lines. Ready to grow? Integrating a virtual toolset can free up your staff to focus on the most important elements of their work, and the additional space is a huge opportunity for growth. Looking to better serve your community? Hybridizing in-person and virtual approaches to your practice can reduce hold times, streamline visits, and open up new touchpoints throughout the life of the pet. We came to VetMed because we love animals and we care about making a difference in their lives. Figuring out tech solutions can feel like a distraction or an unwanted complication in that journey. These decisions aren’t an ancillary part of running a practice, though. They’re fundamental building blocks that shape the long-term trajectory of a hospital. For your staff, clients, and patients, it’s worth taking a long, hard look at your fundamental processes. Whether you need help with phone overflow, appointment scheduling, triage, or virtual communications, GV’s team of experienced veterinary professionals can help. Learn more about our toolset here.
Utilizing Virtual Teams To Provide Quality ServiceApr 24 2023
Tech-enabled services are growing and changing rapidly in the veterinary industry! From the days of printing and mailing reminders to email and text capability, companies offering tech-enabled services found ways to integrate with our PIMS to send out reminders with a click of a button. We then moved to individualized apps for appointment requests, appointment reminders, and prescription requests or refills. Then, we arrived at a point where we could give clients access to their medical records and see test results from home while the doctor reviewed them over the phone. Now, here we are in 2023 moving towards the capability of telemedicine for follow-up appointments and hospice care. I remember a time early in my career when I was undergoing training to be a receptionist — it was a Saturday morning — we were only open for 5 hours, but the schedule was packed. At the clinic, we offered boarding services, and we also took walk-ins and work-ins. The phones were ringing off the hook. I had multiple clients in front of me with a gauntlet of needs: “I need a refill on Heartgard” “I am here to pick up my pet's medicine" “I am here to pick up my pet” “I am dropping my pet off for boarding” “I have arrived for my pet's appointment” “I am ready to check out” “I don’t have an appointment but my dog's nail is ripped and it’s bleeding” “I need to schedule a recheck appointment” Addressing a client's needs is overwhelming when you are new, let alone a seasoned staff member! The instruction from my trainer (which I remember almost 20 years later) was, “Do not make eye contact with a client until you are ready to help them." So I would keep my head down so they knew I was busy until I finished my task. The thought process was if you look at someone, then they think you are not busy, you are ready to help them and this will get you off track. Some see multitasking is an important skill, but it leaves vets burnt out and does not allow for QUALITY customer service and patient care. Allowing your team to be able to focus on customers and patients that are IN your hospital seems like a dream! Before I discovered GuardianVets I had no idea that this level of service was available for a small practice. I managed a small animal hospital for 6 years and would have loved the ability to have a “call center” to field calls for scheduling and refills. Another huge benefit that GuardianVets offers is Triage Services. That’s right! Triage Services. Take the burden of phone calls off your team so that your in-house staff can focus on patient care and customer service. GuardianVets uses technology to provide a remote team as an extension of your in-house veterinary support staff. I made a career move to GuardianVets when I needed a better work-life balance as a new mother. After I was trained and started working, I immediately saw the impact we were making on the hospitals we worked with. As someone who has worked in general practice as well as emergency medicine, I can empathize with the client and patient experience in both scenarios. Most importantly, I see how beneficial our services are to the entire veterinary teams in practice! There are many different ways that hospitals can utilize virtual teams to tailor services to each practice’s needs. Our practice solution can meet any level of demand; we work with small animal, large animal, exotics, specialty, and emergency hospitals. Options include, but will not be limited to: VCSR (virtual client service representative) Triage after hours Triage and Overflow during hours As a triage technician, I take pride in the fact that GuardianVets requires our technicians to be credentialed. When I take a call for a practice my number one goal is to properly triage the patient. If the patient needs immediate care I am able to facilitate that according to the hospital’s specific protocols. When a hospital is closed, our virtual team is there to answer incoming client calls. They never get a voicemail! If the doctor is on-call, I can see the hours they are available and which patients and emergencies they are able to see. If the pet does not fall into these guidelines or if there is not a doctor on-call, I can refer your patient to the preferred emergency hospital or urgent care. If the pet is stable and does not need to be seen right away, I am able to offer reassurance and a professional recommendation to the client. If the hospital allows it, I can schedule an appointment right then and there. If the pet has ingested a potential poison I can refer them to the appropriate hotline and also provide emergency options when warranted. Virtual teams are also a huge asset to emergency hospitals. Before working in an emergency hospital, I never realized that wait times could get over 4 hours. It never crossed my mind. Then I realized that wait times can get to 8-12 hours, especially during nights and weekends. On top of caring for critical emergencies as an in-person emergency technician, I also had the task of letting the owners of stable patients know the wait times. This is a huge stressor. If you get to a point where your emergency room is at capacity, you still need to triage the patient and interact with the client to make sure you are making the best recommendation. In practice, sending a client to another emergency hospital can be one of the hardest tasks. It also takes away from your time with hospitalized pets and owners of UNSTABLE patients. As a triage technician, I am so happy that I can help emergency teams with this burden. The patients get triaged properly, and I can alert them of possible wait times, exam costs, and payment options. If the hospital is at capacity, I refer them out accordingly. THIS IS A BIG DEAL! It allows teams in the hospital to prioritize patient care while still providing exceptional customer service. You get to focus on why you got into veterinary medicine. QUALITY! With virtual teams, your practice can unlock limitless capacity to meet any demand and provide quality customer service through and through.