Here’s some of what I’ve observed about us practice managers since I’ve been part of VHMA as a member, Board Member, and now your new president: We are problem solvers. We are optimists and achievers. We have very high expectations — especially for ourselves.
All of us needed every bit of that grit to get through 2020 and early 2021. We ran at full speed, dealing with every logistical, emotional, and fiscal challenge. For what now seems like a minute, things were looking and feeling better. As I don’t have to tell you, it didn’t last. This is not the September any of us hoped for.
Last fall, Brené Brown said something in her Unlocking Us podcast that struck me then, and that I’ve found myself reflecting on again: It’s not January, but September that is our national time of reset and renewal, she said. We’re all back from summer vacation, kids are in school, and something inside of us all says it’s time to return to normal and recommit to the comfortable routines we crave.
It’s September 2021, I am not feeling any comfortable return to normal. I am a lot like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, feeling the most uncomfortable dread of here we go again. I know that many of you are feeling this way, too.
In light of that, I want to remind you (and me!) of two things I find equally important:
- It’s Ok to Not Be Ok
As optimistic as we tend to be, we need to acknowledge how hard this has been on all of us. It’s been more than 18 months that have not only been hard, but also unpredictable and lacking a definite end. Everything takes more thought, more weighing of risk versus reward. We’ve got compliance fatigue, compassion fatigue, Zoom fatigue and just plain old fatigue. Our clients do, too. If you’re not operating at 100% of your normal capacity, you’re not alone.
In early summer, VHMA’s Past President. Michelle Gonzales-Bryant, wrote an incredibly valuable Practice Pulse column on coping with the stress of the pandemic that I think all of us should have bookmarked. She gave advice on managing stress, and also on how to identify when stress has become too much and professional help is needed.
Please be kind to yourselves always, but especially on those days when you don’t feel like the usual you.
- The New Better Beats the Old Normal
None of us would have wished for the onslaught of challenges that we’ve been living with. But wow, have VHMA members responded to those challenges with a host of truly creative solutions and innovations. Some of these have not only helped us provide better care through this pandemic, but should become a permanent part of our practices whatever happens with this virus. We have found ways to make our practices better!
Our July Insiders’ Insights gave us a great glimpse at some of the innovative ways member practices are managing caseload and supporting team members during the pandemic. I believe many of these will prove extremely valuable long into the future because they fix issues that have existed in some form for a very long time.
- Telemedicine options
- Online pre-registry and payment
- Alternating wellness and medical appointments for all doctors daily
- Pet and product pick-up and drop-off
- Flexible scheduling/allowing staff members to do some work remotely
- More breaks built into the work day.
- Staff gatherings and feedback sessions
- Staff mental health days.
To be sure, there are things none of us will want to keep– many protocols around pet euthanasia have been extremely difficult for all of us, for example.
Every practice is different, and every practice should regularly review its practices and procedures. Don’t fight what isn’t working for you, even if it works for others. I would also encourage you to use the resources VHMA provides us to learn more about what other practices are doing and find ideas worth trying in your practice and share the experiences you have had.
That podcast I listened to last year proposed that returning to the normal we used to know is not always possible, and in some situations, it’s also not optimal. I agree. We practice managers are in a unique position to create the next new phase of our business, as well as our professional and personal lives. Instead of returning to the old normal, I think we should use what we’ve learned to build the “new better.”
Jessica Speas, CVPM