Think like a horse doctor: Be transparent


Equine hospitals are ahead of the curve, says architect Heather Lewis. Their DVMs are used to doing more and more of their work in front of clients. Small animal veterinarians could be next ...

Hospitals can provide places for clients to visit critically ill pets. It's not easy, as it involves putting clients right in the middle of things, but it may be worth the design challenge. A worried owner will appreciate the chance to be close to their loved pets. Clients at Pet Crossing Animal Hospital and Dental Clinic in Bloomington, Minnesota, appreciate the recovery space above. (Photo courtesy photographer)Equine veterinarians often do work out on a farm call-in the whipping wind, a racetrack, under an overhang. Horse doctors work where the horses are and most often in front of their clients. Veterinary architect Heather Lewis, AIA, NCARB, of Animal Arts in Boulder, Colorado, says many cat and dog owners want their hospitals to break down the barriers between doctor and client.

“They have definitely had to face the issues of privacy, the issues of interactions in all forms of what they are doing with their client for a long period of time,” says Lewis.

She says there is an increasing trend in small animal medicine to look again at the barriers put between doctor and client. Breaking down those barriers, however, doesn't come easily and for good reasons.

“They're worried about safety. They're worried about privacy. They're worried about a lot of things that are important,” Lewis says. “But we find that veterinary clients continue to push the idea that they want to know what's going on with their pet-that they want transparency there.”

She finds equine practice an interesting place to look for inspiration to create the openness today's veterinary clients are looking for in small animal clinics. Especially in the front end of the hospital, but wherever you can increase a client's comfort level with what the doctor is doing. Here are three tips to consider when building or redesigning your hospital:

• Enlarge exam rooms to allow for some services to be done in the presence of your client. Wellness care, vaccinations, acupuncture and ultrasound are good fits for this space.

• Create an alcove in your ICU/critical care ward where a client may sit quietly with their pet. Clients hate to be separated from their furry family members-especially when family members are sick.

• Open your exam room environments with glass to the outside and glass looking into “neutral” spaces such as hallways or the lab. A slight degree of transparency through exam room walls can make these spaces feel less claustrophobic and can break down unnecessary psychological barriers between staff and clients.

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