How to make pet owner waits nicer

December 3, 2018
Becky Valentine

Becky Valentine is director of design at BDA Architecture in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a frequent speaker at the HospitalDesign360 conference with Fetch dvm360.

Alternative waiting areas cater to stressed pets, busy clients and kid-filled families. They can be dreamed up for new veterinary hospitals, remodels, or maybe even just some furniture rearranging indoors or outdoors.

Reception areas in veterinary hospitals have traditionally been akin to standard physician's office waiting rooms. They're typically lined with chairs and benches. Sometimes there's a hospitality counter with coffee and water and a television on the wall for light entertainment. But that's usually about it as far as amenities for clients, which means people and pets who are in the waiting area at veterinary hospitals are often left with nothing to do but … wait.

Modern veterinary practices often try to think outside the box when it comes to the waiting experience at their hospital by incorporating alternative waiting areas. These alternative waiting areas offer more to clients-more technology, more comfort, more convenience and more choices. Here are some examples:

Outdoor waiting areas

Outdoor waiting area at High Point Animal Hospital in Maumee, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of BDA Architecture)

What's outside counts

Click here for tons of pictures of veterinary hospital exteriors here.

Outdoor waiting areas give clients the option to get outside for a bit instead of being cooped up inside. Clients can get some fresh air and reconnect with nature. For pets who get stressed sitting in reception, it's an opportunity to go to a more open and natural environment, which might help them feel less confined and potentially calmer and happier.

Outdoor waiting areas are obviously subject to several factors, including your typical climate, the day's weather, space in and around your building, and security with fencing and lighting. However, when outdoor spaces are feasible and practical, they can be extremely beneficial to clients and pets.

Long-term waiting areas

Long-term waiting area at Charleston Veterinary Referral Center in Charleston, South Carolina (Photo courtesy of BDA Architecture)

So nice to meet you!

Click here for a gallery of veterinary hospital reception areas.

Some people prefer to wait for their pets while they undergo medical procedures as opposed to leaving and coming back later when the procedure is over. For these people, it's nice to offer a long-term waiting area-a separate, quieter and more private space than standard waiting rooms.

They should be extra comfortable, with sofas and arm chairs, and equipped with TVs, Wi-Fi and maybe even some computers for public use. Having snacks and beverages available is also nice, as well as private restrooms, if possible.


Laptop bars and workspaces

Laptop bar at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists in Houston, Texas (Rendering courtesy of BDA Architecture)

Could you offer space for clients who want to get work done while they wait? With today's laptops, tablets and smartphones, it's not uncommon for people to work on the go and away from the office. These spaces are especially nice for those busy clients who often forego taking their pet to the veterinarian because it's inconvenient to their schedules. Providing a laptop bar or workspace allows clients to check tasks off their lists during their visit.

These spaces are often furnished with bar-height countertops and stools (similar to what's often provided at airports) or even just open tables with chairs (think libraries or coffee shops). Free Wi-Fi and multiple outlets to plug in are a must.

Kids' nooks

Kids' nook at El Paso Animal Clinic in Derby, Kansas (Photo courtesy of BDA Architecture)

A kids' nook is a small space in a waiting area that's dedicated to kids. It doesn't have to be very big. Even a 4-foot-by-5-foot space is often plenty big to fit a couple small chairs and some toys. Providing a kids' nook not only gives children a space to play and entertain themselves while they wait, but also sends a message to clients that the hospital is family-friendly. You're showing that kids are welcome in your hospital, and it makes visiting the veterinarian fun and interesting for them.

Feline waiting

Glass-enclosed cat room at Farmington Animal Shelter in Farmington, New Mexico (Photo courtesy of BDA Architecture)

Frugal design for felines

Interested in doing more for cats? Read this article (with pictures).

A private, quiet waiting area dedicated to cat clients is a must in modern veterinary hospitals. It gives cat clients the ability to escape the noises and smells associated with dog customers, which can help lower the stress levels of both the cats and their owners. Cats are smaller than dogs and thus cat waiting areas can be relatively small. Enclosing them in glass allows visibility from staff, while still keeping the odors and noises separate.

Becky Valentine is director of design at BDA Architecture based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.