Use code words in veterinary practice
When a pooch tinkles in the waiting room or a pet needs a muzzle, code words can put a positive spin on delicate situations.
One of my first veterinary mentors used to call muzzles "nose warmers," and clients always seemed to respond well to that wording. It took away some of the negativity that pet owners would feel if we instead told them that their dog would be muzzled. I've used that term ever since, and it still turns what could be an uncomfortable exchange into a reason to share a smile. I've also heard other veterinarians refer to the muzzle as a "party hat." Fantastic.
GETTYIMAGES/ANDREW BRET WALLIS
Code words can also be handy for passing along important messages in ways that don't distract or take away from the client experience. For example, when I mentioned this topic on my Facebook page, one person commented that at their clinic, they use a made-up phone call to politely interrupt a doctor who's getting chatty and falling behind: "Dr. King is on line 1 from the emergency clinic." One said that at their practice, they alerted the doctor to potentially aggressive pets by saying, "This one's colorful." Several wrote that when they needed help cleaning up after pet accidents, they simply called for a "code yellow." Perfectly clear.
When used properly, code words can save pet owners from embarrassment, diffuse tension and protect people's feelings-and dignity. As long as they are used in a manner respectful of pets and pet owners, code words can be fun additions to a practice culture.
Say this, not that
Don't say: "We're going to have to muzzle Skeeter so he doesn't bite us when we treat his nail."
Do say: "I know Skeeter is very nervous, and he doesn't like to have his feet messed with. However, we really need to trim the nail that he cracked. We're going to be very gentle and move very slowly. Still, to keep everyone totally safe, I need Skeeter to wear this little nose warmer, just for a few minutes. We'll give him lots of treats when it comes off."