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Veterinary Forum July 2007 (Vol 24, No 7)

Doctor to Doctor: "Portraying a positive image"

by Ronald E. Whitford, DVM

    Last month, our series on "Creating a Professional Atmosphere" shifted to areas behind-the-scenes. Unlike physician offices, veterinary clinics provide most medical and surgical treatments under one roof, much like human hospitals only on a smaller scale. This month, we will continue the mini behind-the-scene tour by focusing on treatment, surgical and pharmaceutical services.

    Treatment services

    Regardless of whether you have one treatment room or a treatment ward with multiple rooms assigned to different procedures, such as dentistry, endoscopy or intensive care, this area is the hub of your hospital. The treatment area, therefore, needs to foster an image of cleanliness and organization, along with featuring appropriate lighting and conveniently positioned ceiling hooks for intravenous equipment.

    Each treatment room or station should be fully equipped and ready for any procedure. Installation of large windows that enable the doctors to observe and monitor patients as well as allow clients to see that their pet is doing fine is highly recommended.

    As with other areas of your clinic, odor control is essential. Even if the area is squeaky clean, if odors are penetrating the treatment room or ward, your clients will never notice the sparkling floor and sterile lift tables.

    In addition to being organized and clean, safety is essential, so sharps disposal containers, CPR protocols and emergency crash carts need to be placed in highly visible, easy-to-access areas. Such pet restraint equipment as muzzles and Snappy Snares as well as squeeze cages should be stored in handy under- or over-the-counter cabinets. In addition, specific space should be dedicated to hand instruments, sterilization trays, ear-flushing equipment, body positioners and spray bottles that are used for ongoing disinfecting.

    In some clinics, dental procedures are completed in a designated dentistry room that is equipped with tables specifically designed for dental work, intraoral radiography equipment, anesthesia machines and monitors, air-powered drills and other instruments commonly used in routine dental care.

    Support areas housed within the treatment area or located nearby should contain equipment for ultrasonography, radiography and endoscopy and an ECG diagnostic computer.

    Surgical services

    When conducting your mini-tour, make sure that owners realize how surgery, which is an integral, vital part of your practice, is performed under aseptic conditions similar to those in human hospitals. You want to leave an image of a clean, modern, well-stocked surgical suite.

    The area should have a sufficient number of drop-in fluorescent ceiling units that provide good lighting. In addition, air vents, which should not be positioned directly over surgery tables, should be routinely cleaned.

    Anesthesia equipment, along with patient monitoring devices, such as a pulse oximeter for measuring heart rate and oxygen levels, should be visible, along with an ECG, defibrillator and emergency crash kit. Warm-water circulating blankets that help maintain normal body temperature also should be readily accessible.

    The following items should be neatly organized in convenient cabinets or storage areas:

    • Surgical packs and suture supplies
    • Body-positioning devices
    • Wet and dry instrument trays
    • Plastic liners
    • Kick buckets
    • Laser equipment
    • Endoscopy equipment
    • Suction and electrosurgical units

    Pharmaceutical services

    Detail and organization cannot be overemphasized in the pharmacy area, which should be computerized to generate prescription labels and to update each pet's medical records. In addition, cautions and instructions to owners should be printed at the bottom of the receipt.

    Because your pharmacy likely dispenses most of your patients' medication needs, you should be staffed and equipped to quickly fill prescriptions while clients are waiting. Shelving should be open, and everything should be labeled appropriately.

    Drug dosage lists should be located in convenient, highly visible places for staff reference and CPR protocol drugs listed on a separate sheet. Pharmacy references should be located nearby.

    In addition, frequently called phone numbers, such as compounding pharmacies, the poison control center and other local veterinarians as well as specialists should be posted near telephones.

    Outdated drugs must be disposed of properly, and controlled drug security needs to be enforced with an updated controlled drug log. Sharps and dispensing containers also need to be conveniently located.

    Some closing thoughts

    Behind-the-scene activities can represent the hub of your hospital or clinic and portray a positive image of your medical and surgical care.

    NEXT: Doggy diet drug now available

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