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What's next for veterinary practices & the industry in general?

Posted in Our Community @ May 21st 2020 - By Dr Anne Fawcett
Whats Next For The Veterinary Industry Dr Anne Fawcett Red

What's next for veterinary practices post COVID-19? And what's next for the Australian veterinary industry in general?

I think our profession in general, like everyone else, was blindsided by the pandemic. When I graduated, post SARs-COV-1 and under the spectre of Avian Influenza, there was a lot of discussion about pandemics, but it kind of died (except among the public health veterinarians, I would hasten to add!). 

Pandemic preparedness isn’t a popular activity when there are more immediate things to deal with and it isn’t unfolding in our backyard. Its hardly a vote-winner: if you DO head off a pandemic, people are unlikely to notice because it didn’t happen. It’s kind of the same with vaccines. When they work, people wonder whether they are needed. They are their own PR enemy. 

Now we know what happens when we're not prepared

At least now we have some sense of what happens when we aren’t prepared. Everything is connected.

Animal welfare

For example, that is now painfully clear when it comes to animal welfare. Covid-19 emerged because of poor husbandry of wildlife. But even unaffected animals have suffered. We have seen, on the news, wild animals desperately raiding towns because the tourists and businesses that normally feed them aren’t there. We have seen large numbers of laboratory animals around the world culled because of the restrictions on the movement of humans. Slaughterhouses have been closed due to outbreaks of disease among workers, leading to “welfare culling”. And we hear from zookeepers about contingency plans involving feeding the herbivores to the carnivores due to loss of income from ticketing.

Competition for resources & skills

We found ourselves thinking about potential competition with our medical counterparts for equipment like ventilators and PPE, and even skills – in some countries, medical services called for the assistance of veterinary personnel.

What's next for practices?

More sickdays

For practices, I think biosecurity will loom much larger than it has. For example, post-pandemic we might see more people take sick days because, while they could soldier on, they realise that what they do impacts the others in their team (and potentially clients). That will have implications for staffing. I hope it encourages practices to take biosecurity more seriously – and I think that will be an expectation of staff as well as clients.

Clients will probably demand more services that they know we can now provide – telemedicine, drop-off consultations, medications and foods delivered where possible. We may be fielding more questions about zoonoses. 

More online CPD

We will probably see more online CPD and possibly the rise of micro-credentialling that can be undertaken from home. It will be nice when we’re finally able to beam our teacher’s avatar into the room, as conferencing platforms like Zoom can be a bit draining when you’re using them for long periods (the lockdown has coincided with the rise of the Zoombie).

I suspect we will also be looking after a whole lot of animals adopted during the pandemic!

It would be great to see more dialogue between private practices and Government laboratories; more discussion and collaboration between medical and veterinary personal and greater engagement with professional associations in tackling existential threats to humanity, including the climate emergency.

What's next for the profession?

For the veterinary profession in general, I think there will be a lot of reflection, broad-scale contingency planning, and (I hope) better utilisation of our skills in the face of existential threats. 

We need to think about how anti-expert sentiment fuelled the concurrent infodemic, and what veterinary team members can and should do, individually and collectively, to address this.

How you can help...

As a veterinarian and academic I am interested in the types of ethical challenges that arose and are continuing to arise since the advent of Covid-19. Looking at these ethical challenges will be helpful, as they may disclose issues around animal welfare, human wellbeing and environmental sustainability, some of which could be addressed so that they can be better navigated in the future.

I have developed an online survey which is open for veterinarians, veterinary nurses and animal health technicians globally until July 13:

It can be accessed by clicking here: Ethically challenging situations encountered by veterinarians, animal health technicians and veterinary nurses in the era of Covid-19

Do you agree with Anne? If you have any questions or comments, please add them in the Comments section below.

About Anne

Anne Fawcett is a companion animal veterinarian, and a lecturer at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science. She is a member by examination in the animal welfare chapter of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists, and is a Diplomate of the European College of Animal Welfare and Behaviour Medicine in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law.

She co-authored the book Veterinary Ethics: Navigating Tough Cases with Dr Siobhan Mullan, and is the author of numerous academic publications including peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. Her research interests include animal welfare and ethics. In addition, Anne was co-editor of the Vet Cookbook, an initiative to promote mental wellbeing in veterinarians, nurses and others working with animals.

 

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