Curbside Equipment Repair: 5 Things We Learned from a Patterson Service Technician
(L) Kelly McAbee, Patterson Veterinary field service technician | (R) McAbee's dogs Ruffus and Lulu
In order to continue caring for our nation’s pets, veterinary teams across the country not only picked up, but polished, an entirely new skillset all in a matter of mere months following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic: curbside care. Since our entire purpose here at Patterson is to strengthen the people who keep us and our animals healthy, we knew that leaving our customers in the lurch as they transitioned to this new way of doing business was not an option. So, we pivoted right along with you. From releasing complimentary educational courses on telehealth and disinfection, to rolling out new programs like contactless equipment repair, we will do what it takes to keep your practice going and growing!
Of course, as you well know, shifting to a new operational model comes with its fair set of hurdles. Thankfully, change also brings opportunity. To get a behind-the-scenes look at both the challenges and triumphs of launching our curbside equipment repair program, we spoke with our own Kelly McAbee, a certified field service technician who has been servicing Patterson customers in the Pacific Northwest region for over two years. Here are five things we learned about curbside equipment repair from a Patterson service technician.
1. It’s all about minimizing clinic downtime.
Our field service technicians are trained and certified on a broad selection of veterinary equipment. “We will service just about everything inside the veterinary office. From anesthesia machines to autoclaves, microscopes, pumps, monitors, heating elements, patient warmers, dental machines … pretty much everything,” says McAbee. Whether it’s installing, repairing and reinstalling equipment, this training is put in place in order to minimize potential downtime. This was the goal during a typical face-to-face, pre-COVID-19 visit, and it remains the goal during curbside repair visits. “We usually try and do a repair on-site, same day. We hope that we have the part that’s needed or that we can repair the item right away, to reduce any downtime. But we do have potential loaner equipment if it’s an urgent piece of equipment that the clinic can’t be without while we wait for parts.
McAbee has found that small equipment repairs have been some of the easiest to complete curbside, while larger, heavy items like autoclaves can be trickier to take on. “Some of the smoothest have been things like microscopes, which are pretty easy to complete on-site. We can either work out of the back of our TechEdge vans, or some clinics set up a small table for us, which has worked out well.”
2. It takes muscle
Previously uncharted ways of working can challenge anyone to flex a new mental muscle. For service technicians performing curbside repairs, however, things are a little more literal! McAbee elaborates on this unexpected challenge. “Autoclaves aren’t always repairable on-site because we may need a part that isn’t in the van. At that point, rather than having the clients haul a very heavy machine back inside the clinic and hold on to it while we get a part, we generally take those pieces of equipment with us. So there is the initial challenge of just moving the equipment, and the secondary challenge of setting up an at-home workstation where I can finish the repair on the unit prior to returning it to the clinic.”
On the upside of things, as we head into cooler months, McAbee can look forward to reduced heating expenses should any more in-home repairs be called for — “They heat up a room pretty well, those autoclaves.”
3. It’s important to remain level
With the added stress that practicing veterinary medicine during a pandemic can place on teams, it’s important to remain level-headed. Curbside equipment repair brings new significance to “leveling out.”
Prior to COVID-19, Patterson service technicians would enter a clinic and personally reinstall any repaired or serviced equipment, making sure everything was back in perfect working order. The required restrictions of curbside, however, mean that it can fall on the staff themselves to set the equipment back up correctly inside the clinic. “One of the biggest things we walk clinics through is re-leveling their autoclave. Once it has been moved, making sure it is re-leveled is one of the biggest considerations, or else they could continue to have problems,” shares McAbee.
Not to worry — just because we may not be able to be in the room, we have plenty of resources to guide the re-install process. In addition to providing step-by-step PDF forms, we are also available by phone, video chat, and email to help walk you through. And on the other side, empowerment awaits … “Most of the time, customers have been very happy that everything is up and running again. I think it’s kind of a thrill when you can put something back together and it all works. Hopefully they get that rush.”
4. It’s an evolving process
Having a detailed curbside repair process outlined on paper is one thing (which, of course we do), but in the current environment where best-practices and health protocols can change rapidly, being agile is key. In cases where an urgent repair is needed on a piece of equipment that cannot be brought out curbside, for example, arrangements can be made. McAbee recalls one such occasion. “It was a full-body X-ray unit, and obviously we couldn’t take that with us. We worked with the clinic’s schedule to find a slow time when there would be the least amount of traffic through the area, and when the team wouldn′t be needing that piece of equipment. We went in and cleaned and sanitized everything in the room prior to starting our service. We wore masks the whole time, practiced social distancing, and isolated ourselves away from the staff. At the end of the service when we spoke with the staff, we followed those same precautions.”
A nimble process also means that our list of curbside repair-eligible equipment can grow as we learn more. For instance, dental machines were not part of the initial list of curbside service-eligible items, but McAbee recalls the visit that sparked this to change. “A situation came up where a dental unit needed to be repaired curbside, and we got the approval to attempt it. It just took us walking through the steps and figuring out exactly how to do it, and we learned that it is possible. It then became equipment that we could do curbside!”
5. It’s a service that both our team, and our customers, are grateful for
Prior to joining the Patterson team, McAbee was a licensed veterinary technician at an emergency clinic, so she is accustomed to moving fast. This is one of the aspects of the launch of our curbside repair program that has stuck with her most. “I think Patterson′s response time was great because it left very little downtime where our clients were left trying to fix things on their own. We came out with safety measures for both our clients and ourselves quickly, so that we could continue to help meet our customers’ needs.”
As for our customers, McAbee finds that they have been very responsive. “They are having to go through the same things we are with the curbside service they are providing, so they get that we’re trying to limit exposure and keep everyone safe — both themselves and us. Everyone has been understanding of the additional precautions Patterson has been taking, and happy that we are still able to provide service during these times.”
Whenever the time comes, we very much look forward to being able to send our field technicians back into clinics to exchange hearty hugs and handshakes aplenty. Until then, we will continue to provide service in whichever ways best meet our customers’ needs, including through curbside repair, online support, video chat, and over the phone. As McAbee puts it, “We’re always here to help.”
To learn more about curbside care, and all of Patterson’s service offerings, visit us online at PattersonVet.com/Equipment/Service