Top gifts for clients and patients


An attentive voice, a giving hand, and a dignified ear are on every client and patient's wishlist this year.

This holiday season is a perfect time to remind yourself why you're more important than Santa Claus to pets and their owners. To be a successful veterinary team member, give the following three gifts now—and all year long.

1. An attentive voice

Every client deserves the favor of a personal relationship with you. Clients need to know who you are, why you care about their pet, and what you'll do as a dependable member of the healthcare team. Imagine what it be would like to call your doctor's office and speak to a nurse who recognized you and showed personal interest in your needs. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you were on a first-name basis with her and could reach her anytime you had a concern about your health? You can be that person for your clients. Here's how:

Offer work contact information. Many practices print business cards for team members. When you offer clients your card, you gain credibility and they gain an inside track to excellent pet health care. The cards show that your practice is validating your ability to speak one-on-one and build professional relationships with clients.

Call before clients call you. Anticipate your clients' needs by letting them know lab results or reminding them of appointments before they feel the need to phone. Proactive communication gives them peace of mind.

Ease fears. It's never easy for clients to admit pets to the hospital or leave them for a day of treatment or diagnostics. Be sensitive to clients' emotions, and offer understanding and support throughout their pet's stay. Call clients with hospitalized pets to touch base and let them know their pets are doing well in your care.

2. A giving hand

Old-fashioned tender loving care rates highest in terms of offering excellent patient care. Treat each and every pet as if it were your own. Not only will pets respond to your gentle ways, but your clients also will appreciate them. You provide affection and nurturing when you:

Show patients you know them. Hearing their name comforts them and helps them trust you. Also speak in a calm, soothing tone whenever you interact with or approach pets.

Make their beds. Throw out those thinning towels and line kennels with fleece pads or blankets. They're just as easy to clean and they're more cozy. Check hospital cages and runs frequently for moisture and soiling, replacing bedding as soon as you see it's necessary.

Spend time with pets. When the practice is slow, do you find yourself catching up on your co-worker's love life? Use downtime more effectively by spending a few moments stroking a patient's fur. The human touch can help patients recover more quickly. Quality time with pets can also boost your morale during a tough or busy day.

3. A dignified ear

Respecting clients and patients is a powerful gift. Great team members recognize the unique bond between each person and his or her pet. Honor that connection by doing everything you can to care for pets and, in turn, improve life for clients and their companions. But there's more: Veterinary medicine isn't just about offering quality health care. It's also about fostering the relationship between humans and animals. Show you value people and pets by:

Listening to clients. Whether you're speaking to pet owners on the phone or in person, try to read them. Think about whether they're feeling emotional and whether they're sharing personal opinions about their pet's care. Try to determine their needs by being open to what they're telling you, asking questions, and using welcoming body language

Sparing clients. Having a bad day? That's no reason to be sullen with Mrs. Smith who just happened to run out of food and stop by at an inconvenient time. When you're facing difficult circumstances, don't take your frustration out on clients. Leave your problems behind when you interact with them.

Refraining from judgments. Don't jump to conclusions about what a client can afford. You owe it to pet owners to give them your honest opinion and recommendation every time. If you guess a client can't handle the cost of care, that's no reason to hold back. You don't know what people's pets mean to them or what they're willing to do to save their companion's life.

As you check off each loved one from your shopping list, don't forget your treasured patients and clients. More than catnip or a squeaky toy bone, cats and dogs—and their owners—need you to wrap up boxes of attention, care, and respect. Best of all, these gifts give back: Caring for patients constantly reminds you why you were drawn to veterinary medicine. And clients' gratitude for their pets' good health gives you personal satisfaction in the job you love.

Brenda Tassava, CVPM, is hospital administrator at Broad Ripple Animal Clinic and Wellness Center in Indianapolis. Send comments to

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