Sew up your after-surgery handouts


Send your clients home with clear, concrete instructions?and take the opportunity to show them how much you care.

A care sheet goes home with every hospitalization and surgery case seen at Cloud Veterinary Center in St. Louis. The forms give clients a reference tool, so they don't need to remember everything you said when they picked up their pet—and the forms act as an educational tool. "We have forms for common procedures, such as spays, declaws, and neuters, and they include details about pre-op preparations, anesthesia, the procedure, post-op recovery, and after-care instructions," says Andrea Catanzaro, RVT. Specifically, they cover feeding, exercise, medications, stitches, any additional instructions, and re-examination needs.

Delivering the form at the right time makes a difference, she says. "When the owner comes to pick up his or her pet, a technician goes over the form. Then we bring the pet out," Catanzaro says. "This way, we have the client's full attention. If we bring the animal out first, then it's hard for a client to listen. The dog may be barking or pulling, or the client may be so excited to be reunited with the pet that it's hard for him or her to focus." While Catanzaro uses pre-printed forms, with check boxes and blanks for writing additional information, some practices have gone electronic.

Download the sample "My Big Day" after-surgery care sheet posted at Consider a similar form in your practice to help educate clients, bond them to your practice, and advertise your compassion and care.

Find a place on your client's refrigerator

The team at Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C., uses an electronic form that takes a fun approach."We tell clients when we're reviewing discharge instructions that their pet hacked into the computer and wrote this note," says Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Ernest Ward Jr., owner of Seaside Animal Care. "The pet tells about what it went through, which educates clients about the procedure and builds value in what we offer. Plus, it's a great marketing tool," says Dr. Ward. "Clients really enjoy these notes. They even put them on their refrigerators. Their neighbors and friends see them. And they realize we're providing a different level of care and compassion."

Preparing this handout takes the team at Seaside Animal Care only about three minutes. They store a template for the form in a word-processing program. So team members take a photo, load it into the computer, place it in the document, type in the pet's name, and click "print."

In terms of the hard costs, you'll need a printer and a digital camera. Dr. Ward uses a color laser printer, though you could purchase a quality ink-jet printer for $150 or less. Digital cameras are available for less than $100. "The capital investment's really minimal," says Dr. Ward. "And if this creates an advocate out of one client and you get five new clients out of it, you've more than paid for any investment."

Match materials to your practice personality

"My Big Day" handouts might not be right for every practice, says Dr. Ward, but you can adapt the idea to work for you. "Personalized sheets show it's about the client and pet," he says. "My goal: To own the refrigerator space."

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