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Veterinarian License DefenseIn our previous post, we wrote about ways your clinic can cope with the changes caused by Covid-19. Here are some additional thoughts about understaffing and client satisfaction during the pandemic.

Question: How can my veterinary clinic navigate issues of understaffing caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic?

Understaffing in Veterinary care was a common issue prior to the pandemic. The pandemic only worsens this divide. Following CDC guidelines, an employee who is exposed to Covid-19 must quarantine until they receive their test results, and even if they are negative, the length of the quarantine is 7 days from the test. If it is positive, the quarantine period is at least 14-days, and they cannot return until they acquire a negative test. This can create large, unexpected gaps in staffing if even one employee is following quarantine protocol. This issue can become exacerbated if multiple employees were exposed and require quarantine. We recommend to have a plan and prepare for these possible scenarios. It will still be challenging, but you will be prepared for the unexpected.

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Healthcare License DefenseOver a year into the Covid-19 Pandemic, there are still ongoing questions, concerns, and struggles faced by many industries. Veterinary care is certainly one of those industries affected, especially since Illinois deemed them as an Essential Service while most everything else was closed. We address commonly shared concerns and questions that have persisted throughout the pandemic:

Question: How can my veterinary clinic cope with the various changes caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic?

Things are uncertain, confusing, and wholly different. Established protocols that have been tried and true methods can no longer be followed in the same way; basic day-to-day office interaction is punctuated by strict social distancing and sanitary procedures to keep everyone safe; clients, who were once an office fixture, are commonly disallowed from attending the appointments. It can be difficult to adapt to these changes even after experiencing them for the past year. We recommend embracing the change and facing it head on, rather than comparing operations to the past. Fixating on the way things are different rather than how your clinic can expertly navigate the challenges of the Pandemic is one way to affect the morale of your staff and your clients.

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Medical License DefenseAll physicians work incredibly hard in their profession. However, not all physicians experience the same challenges within their fields. Now more than ever, gender issues are commonly discussed and acknowledged in health related professions.

Because of the intensive, long hours that physicians experience, there can be particular challenges when it comes to arranging and securing childcare or being able to take maternity leave when the time comes. Certainly, not all female physicians have or will have children in their professional careers; however, for those who do, it’s a hurdle one must navigate to both comfortably practice and also feel confident in their parenting ability. There is certainly the expectation that female physicians will somehow, with ease, juggle the intensity of their careers and be perfect mothers simultaneously. In reality, the stress of childcare, motherhood, and pregnancy, alongside the stress of long hours and unforgiving work can severely affect the physician. There have been cases of reported negligence stemming from exhaustion and extreme stress caused or exacerbated by the inability to balance these challenges; some female physicians also turn to other methods to help them through these challenging times, and it can result in substance abuse issues that could threaten their license. Acknowledging these challenges and providing solutions to put the female physician in a less precarious position is an important step that needs to be taken at many facilities.

In addition to the very real challenges of childcare and motherhood, female physicians also experience discrimination based solely upon their gender. Sexism and biased attitudes toward women are still prevalent across most industries, and female physicians fall victim to this underlying (and sometimes overarching) current within their profession. Young male physicians are often lauded and highly regarded, or even seen as impressive, whereas young female physicians are often discredited and invalidated, with the assumption that they are too inexperienced and uneducated to properly care for patients and make the right medical decisions. This thread of negativity can place immense stress and pressure on the female physician and can destabilize their career, or even generate feelings of unworthiness and the want to leave to avoid further stress.

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Psychologist License DefenseOnce rare, online therapy is now commonplace. For many patients, the ease of meeting virtually has broadened accessibility and the willingness to meet more regularly. Similarly, many mental health professionals have found the recent surge of virtual appointments as a general benefit for both their patients and their own work. However, there is an underlying thread of challenges that most mental health professionals may not even realize exist.

There are many free programs available for virtual appointments. However, unbeknownst to its users, that particular program may not even be HIPAA-compliant. If the professional is audited or reported, their license could be suspended while investigation occurs, or a license could even be revoked for a HIPAA violation, even if unintended. Although there are free programs that comply with HIPAA, the mental health professional should also research and possibly invest in official licensed programs for mental health professionals. The patient will also have confidence that their appointments are safely occurring and that any sensitive information could not be recorded or stolen from them.

The mere nature of a virtual appointment can also be less than confidential. For some patients, they may not have regular access to a dedicated space in which to have the private appointment. This certainly prevents the patient from having basic privacy while engaging in private discussions, but they may not have another choice. There is also the possibility that the mental health professional may not have a dedicated home office due to lack of space, which can affect both patient confidentiality and invalidate the professional. The general informality of this setup can prevent the appointment from being useful to the patient and can be invalidating to the professional, who likely has a dedicated office space for in person meetings.

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Healthcare License DefenseWe have already written about the prevalence of understaffing in nursing. Undoubtedly, the Covid-19 Pandemic has severely exacerbated the existing understaffing issues. Now more than ever before, nurses are facing extremely challenging work environments with unforgiving and unrelenting conditions.

Already understaffed, facilities reaching critical capacities due to the Covid-19 Pandemic only further highlights these existing difficulties. Nurses who already struggle to provide care to a typical number of patients simply cannot manage an even larger number of patients. As much as patients are filling facilities with Covid-19, nurses are being exposed to the virus and many have fallen ill. With strict and long quarantine policies, a facility can be without multiple nurses at once. This can be devastating for facilities, especially those with minimal staff.

In many cases, nurses who test positive for Covid-19 are out of work for at least 14 days, and only return when they obtain a negative test result. For some people, despite having a negative test result and surpassing the quarantine period, their physical health remains affected by the virus. Scientists and doctors have barely scratched the surface of understanding the condition known as “Long Covid,” but the reality is that many nurses who tested positive continue to have symptoms long after their initial illness. These symptoms, which include fatigue, brain fog, heart palpitations, and lesions, can gravely affect the nurses’ ability to perform their work, if they are even able to physically be at work. This creates a perpetual cycle of understaffing and makes already-difficult work even more challenging.

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