I’ve written several posts in the last two weeks about social distancing and small animal veterinary clinics. They’ve mostly focused on social distancing between veterinary personnel and pet owners. However, veterinary clinics almost always have multiple people working in the clinic itself, and sometimes close contact between staff is unavoidable. I’m getting lots of questions about how to socially distance while working in a clinic.

Here are some ideas:

  • Whenever possible, stay at least 2 metres / 6 feet apart. We can’t always do it but we need to make it the goal.
  • If a procedure will necessitate close-contact between people (e.g. blood collection, catheter placement, pretty much anything that involves restraint), take a moment to step back and think about whether the procedure is really needed or if there are alternative ways of accomplishing the same thing that don’t require multiple people.
  • When people have to be close together, be efficient.  Get everything set up in advance so that whatever needs to be done can be done quickly.
  • Try to keep “contact groups” together. If people have to work in close proximity at times, it helps to keep the number of different combinations of people in close contact to a minimum.
  • Look at clinic layout and operations to see if people who normally sit near each other can be separated. For example, just have one person at reception. If more than one person is usually present, think about what can be done to avoid this (especially since most clinics aren’t currently allowing people to come into the reception area).  It might mean moving someone to an office or lounge, or transitioning some activities to someone who can work at home.
  • Look at lounge, lunchroom or office spaces and try to move people around or schedule things such that only one person is hanging out in a small room at a time.
  • Make sure all staff are paying attention to their health and staying home if they are sick.
  • Encourage staff to be responsible outside of work. They need to be responsible with social distancing at all times to protect coworkers.
  • Practice good routine infection control measures like hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection of high-contact surfaces.
The question about masks always comes up. Masks can reduce the risk of transmission if someone is unknowingly shedding the virus . Masks aren’t perfect but there can be some benefit. Whether it’s a good use of masks is questionable. Putting on masks for occasional close contact procedures (and ideally reusing that mask for the whole shift) isn’t unreasonable, but whether it’s really worth the mask use is hard to say.