“I don’t want you to take my pet in the back.”

As veterinarians, we occasionally hear that statement. For every time we hear it said aloud, I assume there are five or ten others that feel that way but don’t feel comfortable enough to share. Most veterinarians will cater to the owners’ requests and just do whatever we need to do right there in the room. In many clinics, veterinarians have evolved the way they practice. They just do everything in the exam room from the start. This definitely works and has some real benefits. But it does not address the primary issue involved, why are we scared of “the back”?

I know that some of us have had negative experiences in clinics before. But I believe that many people with anxiety about the back have a fear of the unknown. Is the staff being mean to my pet or treating them inappropriately? Is the facility unsightly or unkempt? Are they cutting corners on how they treat patients medically? These are a few questions I assume run through our clients’ thoughts. At Firehouse Animal Health Center, we discussed this idea and tried to come up with a few different options.

We offer all new clients a tour of the hospital. We are proud of this place and glad to show it off. I used to be surprised when I would offer a tour and the client would always say, “I have never been in the back of a vet practice before!” I love explaining how we do surgery, dentistry, and why we are treating different pets. I find that the clients love learning and the staff loves teaching. A tour given at the first client visit will erase the fear about what happens in the back. It’s like turning the lights on in a scary house. It just washes out the negative thoughts. This act also builds trust with our clients. They get to see how we interact with other patients and understand just how special they are to us.

We put a window right there in our waiting room that allows our clients to see directly into our treatment area (i.e. “the back”). It is not uncommon for us to be working on patients and see a few curious eyes peering through the glass. We believe that an open environment allows better communication and less stress for the client and patient. The unintended consequence is that allowing that observation also motivates our team to operate at a high level. It opens the door to conversations about training, handling, and technical skills and creates more active dialogue.

We have an open-door policy. This goes with the what we have said above, but it is more than a tour and a window to look in. We really want our clients to feel at home while at Firehouse. If they want to see how we do something, we are happy to show them. The better we can educate our clients, the better the result is for the patient.

These three concepts are not big projects. They do not require large investments in time or money. But the small effort and work on doing these things have paid huge dividends in bonding with our clients. I love watching young kids awe-struck at our window or see a new pet owner walk by on a tour led by one of our phenomenal technicians. The result is a better experience and better relationship. No one is afraid of what happens in the back anymore.

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