Even the most routine vet visits can be stressful for both the pet and the owner. No matter how skilled you are as a veterinarian professional, trips to the vet can be scary for our four-legged friends and their anxiety can make their caretakers unhappy. The reality of being a vet or a vet tech is that, no matter how exceptional the care, most pet owners report that their pets hate going to the vet. A good way to decrease the tension of having to bring in pets for check-ups and medical hiccups is to craft a welcoming and comforting lobby.
The waiting room for your clinic is the first real-life impression that your client will see, so you want to make sure that you get it right by ensuring that the environment is both relaxing and friendly. The more peaceful and diverting your waiting space is, the easier the visit will be for everyone. Create a bond with the patrons and critters that pass through your practice from the lobby to the exam room with these tips.
The importance of hiring quality professionals shouldn’t stop at hiring veterinarians and vet techs; the role of the receptionist (or receptionists) is essential to creating a warm and empathetic environment. Your receptionist helps to set the tone of the visit. The skills involved in being a great receptionist go beyond administrative tasks and answering the phone. A great receptionist will be friendly, detailed, and considerate. But they will also have the ability to pay close attention to the waiting area and prioritize needs, noting which pets will need immediate attention. And a great receptionist will also be able to offer guidance and direction when it comes to providing accurate wait times, detailed instructions on filling out paperwork, and the ability to quickly access client files.
But, the most welcoming aspect is showcased by providing the hospitality you’d like to receive: opening the door for clients with children and cat carriers, greeting everyone who arrives or making eye contact with every new person if on the phone, and offering to hold a leash if necessary.
By acknowledging a client and extending additional courtesies it will make them feel seen and valued, decreasing tension in the client and making for an easier overall visit.
Not all veterinarian spaces are created equally, and for some animals, the waiting room is not an appropriate spot for them. While some lobbies might be able to account for private areas to separate pets from one another, often that isn’t the case. And while all pet owners appreciate being taken directly into the exam room that realistically won’t be a regular occurrence. However, there are some instances where privacy is paramount.
Even while you are working on making your lobby as welcoming and inviting to both the pets and the pet-parents, there are some animals that can’t handle the hullabaloo of a lobby--no matter how calming and relaxing. It’s important to carefully assess how your waiting area will affect sensitive pets. A way to provide ease and relaxation to both nervous pet and owner is to ensure that you have one clean open room separated from the lobby to eliminate or decrease the stress for sensitive pets such as cats or skittish dogs. They will benefit from this kind of privacy and it will also help reduce the stress for other pets and people in the waiting room.
It’s also important to be mindful of vet visits that will be emotional for the owner. It is essential to keep your receptionist aware of the appointment schedule and for everyone to be cognizant of when to expect a potentially emotional client. We all love our furry friends, and it is necessary to prioritize privacy when anticipating a visit that will include a quality of life conversation or euthanasia. By giving the client a safe and quiet space to grieve and process, such as a closed exam room, it will help them through a difficult time.
The physical space of your veterinarian's office waiting room is just as important as providing hospitality, professionalism, and empathy to your clients and their pets. Even the smallest space can be maximized to provide an entertaining, enjoyable, comfortable, and safe waiting room. While it’s essential to ensure that your clinic looks clean and professional, it’s also important to implement design and decorating elements that make your location easy-to-access, welcoming, and calming.
There are simple ways to include elements of design in your lobby that will establish an environment that will be appreciated by both pets and pet parents. No matter the size of the space, you should limit clutter, whether that is being judicious about the number of retail items you have on display or keeping additional leashes and other items behind the counter, reducing clutter will reduce anxious energy in pets.
You can create a more welcoming space by carefully curating the design, this can be executed by utilizing branded, if applicable, and/or muted paint options. Hanging photos and paintings of pets is also a nice touch. Make sure to limit use of clashing colors or chaotic and hectic art. The same energy should be considered when it comes to noise level within the waiting room, relaxing music or a TV set to Animal Planet, or something similarly informational, is a nice touch--but make sure that the volume is reasonable, waiting rooms are often already a noisy space.
Make sure that your design includes informational aspects, including informational posters with helpful health advice and a very carefully maintained bulletin board. It is important to be able to balance the information posted within the lobby while ensuring that it doesn’t become cluttered and outdated.
And, finally, ensure that you provide comfortable furniture for all clients. You never know how long a wait might run and you want to ensure that all clients are able to wait in a comfy chair in a clean and carefully decorated space.
Lastly, it is important to attempt to reduce fear for our furry friends by being proactive, and that starts in the waiting room. It is important to be mindful that even the most silent or seemingly relaxed pets are likely experiencing some degree of anxiety. By employing stress-reducing initiatives as soon as pets arrive it can make for a much more relaxed and easy vet visit overall.
Some of these fear decreasing practices can include implementing Fear Free practices, which is a transformative initiative created by Dr. Marty Becker that provides programs, courses, and certifications that will assist all vets and staff in skills to reduce the trauma a pet experiences when they go to the vet, and is something to be considered when hiring new staff for vet and vet tech positions.
Decreasing fear for pets can also take the form of utilizing stress-reducing products to pets when they first arrive in the waiting room, such as Ceva-brand products including the pheromone Feliway for our feline friends and Adaptil for the canines.
No matter what programs or initiatives you decide to implement for your practice, reducing stress starts upon entry and within the lobby. All of your staff should be skilled in fear reduction to ensure that repeat visits are more comfortable and less scary for all pets and people involved
Providing a more comfortable, welcoming, and stress-free waiting room ensures that the pets experience less trauma which results in more accurate exams, blood tests, and vital readings; as well as ensuring less sedation and injury.
A welcoming waiting room also makes pet parents feel confident with their provider choice and more interested in returning to your practice. It establishes a trusting relationship between the pet owner and the provider, and a welcoming waiting room ensures an easier exam for the owner as much as it does the pet.
Additional supplementary considerations are providing refreshments for both pet and owner, having a play space for pets to let off steam, and providing free WiFi.
Some ways to reduce wait times at the vet is to provide online forms for pet owners that they can fill out ahead of time and at their convenience. Another way is to ensure that your staff is trained on how to shift teams to assist when another team is falling behind.
Sometimes, no matter how much a practice is striving to run exactly on time, the reality is that it can’t always be the case. The best way to ease the irritation of longer wait times is for the receptionist and staff to give updates about when the client will be seen--and to be direct and honest about the length of wait. And in the absolute worst-case scenario, it might be beneficial to offer a new appointment time to a client if they are going to be experiencing an unusually long wait.