See your veterinary clinic from a client's-eye view

See your veterinary clinic from a client's-eye view

When you rush from room to room, it can be easy to overlook the cleanliness of your practice.
Jan 01, 2014

The exam room is the high temple of veterinary medicine. It's the chamber where pet health is protected; relationships are formed and cemented; and life-and-death decisions are made. Rather than constantly ricocheting from room to room, ask your front-desk team to book you an appointment with yourself. I bet you're thinking, "What?"

I've done this for most of the 34 years I've been in practice. When I enter the exam room, I use the same door as my clients. I stop and look at the appeal of the door itself; is it dirty or damaged, or could it benefit from new hardware? I stop in the threshold and take a good whiff. Does it smell odorous (bad), fragrant (good) or like nothing at all (fantastic!)? Before taking a seat, I scan all quadrants of the room, looking for dirt in the corners, dust in distant places, air vents that are dirty, light bulbs that are burned out, posters that look used-and-abused—anything of the sort.

As technicians or veterinarians, we tend to enter the exam room in a hurry, immediately communicating with the pet and pet owner(s). Our eyes are on the pet or the owner the whole time, and the room that holds this diagnostic, preventive-care ballet of sorts becomes a background set. By taking the time to do diagnostics on the room, I've spotted dust bunnies the size of Flemish Giants, light bulbs that have been trying to fade to black for weeks, People magazines from the year Princess Diana passed and an ugly anal gland trail that missed the paper towel but not the wall. These might be invisible to us, but somebody notices—and that somebody is the pet owner, who sits scanning the room like someone nervously waiting for their blind date. They typically won't say anything, but the condition of the room matters when the pet owner rates the quality of the practice and gives a judgment of value received (benefits divided by price equals value).

I'm often asked how to choose a veterinarian. My serious answer is to ask a slew of co-workers, friends, and people at the dog park or pet store who they recommend and why. Look for multiple mentions of a veterinarian or a veterinary practice, then do a thorough site visit. My teasing answer—but still serious—is to say, "Never trust live pets to a veterinarian who has dead plants."

Dr. Marty Becker, Veterinary Economics Practice Leadership Editor and CVC speaker, is author of The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy and 21 other books. He practices at North Idaho Animal Hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho.