In discussion with our staff, recently, a comment came up from one of the nurses that really intrigued me. She said that what gave her real joy and satisfaction in her job was seeing the relief and pleasure on the face of an owner on being reunited with a pet after a stay in hospital. She went on to mention that it didn’t seem to matter if this stay was a routine (for us) ‘day surgery’ or a prolonged period of sickness – there was an obvious delight in either case.
This started me thinking about the experience from the point of view of our clients. What may seem absolutely familiar and normal to us, as veterinary staff, is anything but a comfortable experience for an owner. In addition, it’s a reminder to me of just how much responsibility we have to our clients in looking after their pets and delivering them home safely.
In many ways, there is a real ‘before’ and ‘after’ phase for owners in what can be a very emotional experience in leaving a pet with us – how does that look?
- There’s often a high degree of uncertainty as to what will happen
- There’s a genuine fear that their pet is suffering pain or discomfort and that things may not go so well
- Unbeknownst to us, owners are sometimes waiting by the phone all day in anticipation of a call (and often fearing bad news)
- Although not usually the most pressing concern, there may be financial worries underlying the process and some uncertainty as to how much the visit is going to cost
- In many cases, there’s immense relief when everything works out well and we send home a happy, healthy pet
- The fear of the unknown is over and the owner can relax
- For the majority, we’re able to send clients home with a degree of certainty as to treatment plans and what’s going to happen in future
- In almost every case, there’s the joy of seeing their pet come out of the hospital in much the same way as being reunited with a family member
With this in mind, how do we go about ensuring that we make the transition from ‘before’ to ‘after’ minimally stressful? Well there’s a few things we try to do, as follows:
- We’ll provide as much client education as possible so that owners understand exactly what we propose to do
- This could take the form of handouts or ‘e-books’ or even just spending a bit more time in the consult room explaining the situation.
- In more complex medical cases, we’ll talk you through the steps as we find out more information
- Results of blood tests and imaging will often give us the vital clues as to what’s happening with your pet.
- All staff are committed to providing you with as detailed an estimate as possible prior to hospital admission
- In some cases we won’t know full details until we get started but we’ll keep you updated as we go along
- Dentistry is one area where accurate estimates are simply impossible in advance – in these cases, we’ll always call you once we have made our initial exam under anaesthetic
- We’ll call you with regular updates or as soon as possible after surgery cases.
- If nothing else, this will allow you to relax in the knowledge that everything has gone well
- At discharge, we’ll have a staff member available to answer all your questions
- We arrange a specific time for a discharge consult for this very reason
- All surgery cases are followed up with a ‘post-op’ visit a few days later
- This allows you to ask about any concerns that have arisen or to ask the questions you forgot to ask on the day!
- We can even send you a link to view x-rays, if we’ve taken any!
- All we need is your email address, if we don’t already have it and you can look at all your pets’ x-rays at home
Of course, I’m writing this from our perspective. If there’s anything else you’d like to add from the owners side, I’d be delighted to get that feedback. We’re constantly trying to improve what we do and to upgrade our level of client service. Input from clients is invaluable in refining this. Either call us directly on 8522 3500 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.