Ups and Downs
How much of your new normal is starting to feel a little normal? What things will never feel normal? Are there new routines that you might keep? What things are you ready to never do again?
As I write this, we are multiple weeks into the first global pandemic of my lifetime. There have been almost 3000 COVID positive tests in Iowa. School for the K-12 set has been officially cancelled and veterinary students have been gone from the college for 5 weeks.
Some things remain the same. Judging from the biopsy cases that are coming through our door, tumors continue to develop, dogs still have itchy skin, and I’m told that foreign bodies still hold remarkable, if inexplicable, appeal. Despite all other events, 2020 is a relicensing year, thus it’s time to collate our continuing education hours for submission to the IBVM (side note: if travel bans prevented accruement of CE, be aware that the IBVM removed the cap on online CE hours).
I’ve personally experienced a massive change in how we educate veterinary students. The students are learning new ways to learn. Not surprisingly, they are well ahead of my technology skills. I can now run a meeting on Zoom with ease and have given my first online exam. But I miss our students. For the first time since I’ve been at ISU, there will not be an in-person graduation ceremony, which I will miss tremendously.
I have seen and heard about massive, rapid changes within the veterinary profession. While animals are receiving necessary care, the veterinarians themselves are having limited interactions with clients. I’ve heard poignant remarks from colleagues who can only see clients at euthanasia visits, rather than new puppy visits. I worry for the production animal veterinarians who are advising clients through the unprecedented circumstances hitting the meat and dairy markets. For all of the care and work that has gone into protecting livestock from domestic and foreign animal diseases, it is human illness that disrupted the supply chain.
When we get past the temporal aspect of this pandemic, our profession would be well served to take stock of the toll on all workers in veterinary medicine. Right now we’re in crisis mode. While we’re fulfilling our obligations to patients, clients, families, communities and creditors, we may not have the capacity to appreciate how far we’ve stretched to make things work. Change has been coming at us fast; more change is on the way. I’m not a counselor, but I do know that we make our best decisions with a clear mind. At some point, we’ll need to acknowledge that this journey has taken us closer to fear, confusion, grief, and frustration than any of us typically care to be.
On the upside, you can turn left onto Duff Avenue in Ames with ease. I have spent some really great time with my kids, now that we’re not running to lessons and horse shows and ball games. My cat taught us how to walk him on a leash (I swear it was his idea) and my flower beds are weeded and mulched for the first time in...maybe forever.
Also, I am amazed at the sudden adaptations to keep everyone safe. I’d like to give a huge, grateful shout-out to all the veterinary and lab technicians who are allowing veterinary medicine to keep functioning. These always-essential workers have now stepped into the realm of super hero status. Across Iowa, techs are now working at all hours of day and night, filling in roles they may not normally
cover, or (to borrow a Facebook post) now employ the make & model of cars in their working knowledge of client support. They are keeping labs running so that reliable clinical data is generated for both humans and animals. Without them, the welfare of humans and animals would be greatly impaired.
I mentioned that an in-person graduation ceremony will not be happening this year, though a videotaped commencement program in the works. My favorite part of the ceremony is hearing all the familiar student voices mingling into one voice in the oath. I will end this column with the oath itself; I know that you uphold this oath every day.
“Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society, through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.”
With deep appreciation