Leadership amidst crisis: Stepping up to keep others safe
My name is Dr. Bonnie Shope and I own Veterinary Dental Services, which is a small animal veterinary dental and oral surgery practice in Boxborough, Massachusetts. We’re a specialty practice. We exclusively work on dogs and cats and perform veterinary dentistry and oral surgery.
When COVID hit, I was pretty keyed into the news. I was concerned about how this would affect the business, and I was also just really worried about my staff. I have 19 employees. Their paycheck is their bread and butter and I was very much afraid of how a business shutdown would impact their lives, their livelihood.
Some of the very initial concerns I had as a business owner were regarding keeping employees safe and understanding what my responsibilities were with regard to OSHA: How do we screen people for illness? Can we screen people? Are there HIPAA privacy rules? How do we pay people, especially people who choose not to come to work or don’t feel comfortable coming to work?
When I talked to my employees, I also realized that some of them lived with people, parents, loved ones that have underlying health issues and that they were just terrified of bringing the virus home. We immediately looked at who could potentially work from home and determined that our bookkeeper could definitely work from home, and a few of our client care specialists as well were able to work from home. Our technicians on the other hand, and doctors obviously have to come to work. In veterinary medicine, we need to be present to get the job done.
For the people that did have to come into work, we had to create a safe work environment. We started to develop protocols for what the expectations would be around the hospital. We immediately started wearing masks all the time. We try to limit who’s using each of the computer workstations. For example, I have my own desk, my own workstation. I avoid using any of the other computers in the hospital.
Our practice instituted curbside service right away. Our clients aren’t allowed in the building and our staff go out to the parking lot. But before they go out to the parking lot, they get on the phone with the client and get the patient history, answer any of their questions and concerns, really explain how the appointment is going to unfold so that they can have minimal communication once they’re in the parking lot. We also are using text messaging, email. We’ve added an additional phone line to make our communication that much easier.
For the most part, we receive gratitude from our clients very happy that they could still get their pets needs taken care of, yet also be mindful of their safety, the owner’s safety. One of the benefits that we’ve learned about COVID is that curbside service can actually work to our advantage. We can be more efficient with curbside service, and I think many of our clients actually appreciate the concierge nature of the curbside service. So, it’s something maybe we’ll keep in the future.
It’s very important to demonstrate leadership during times of crisis. Our employees are looking to us for leadership and to set boundaries, to set rules, to give them a playbook to follow. Take the opportunity and stand up for what you believe in and what you think is the right thing to do for your individual practice and your employees. And I would give that advice to any other small business owner.
Alright Annie. Are you doing alright now?
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