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Veterinarian Technician December 2008 (Vol 29, No 12)

Management Matters — Pets & Kids Welcome

by Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM, PHR

    Your practice can do many things to turn chaos into a positive experience for the entire family.

    When a client arrives with children in tow, it can be the perfect time to make your practice shine. Many families with pets also have little non-furry household members, and the way you treat the children can strongly influence a client's experience. Here are some ways you can succeed by entertaining the children and involving them in the care of their beloved pet.

    Make Space for Kids

    Clinics or hospitals that designate a space for their youngest visitors are showing their willingness to have the whole family join in the pet's health care. If your practice does not have a private area for children, recommend that a space be created by using colorful room dividers or creative furniture arrangements. Keep in mind that if parents have to keep their children entertained, the time spent in the waiting room might seem much longer than it actually is. Your goal is to provide a place that encourages interaction, even if you can only devote one corner of the waiting room. Give the children some kid-sized furniture, but be sure to check the safety factor of your purchase.

    Tempt Them with Toys

    Once you have established a kid-friendly zone, you can encourage them to gravitate toward the area by providing books and toys that are approved for the youngest of children — avoiding any small or removable parts. Also avoid toys that make a lot of noise. Not only can sounds aggravate clients, your patients may become more nervous during the commotion.

    It also is advisable to offer toys and sturdy books that can be wiped down. Remember, you're in the business of preventing the spread of disease, and routinely cleaning everything in the lobby — toys, books and furniture — with a disinfectant should be mandatory.

    When the family is moved to the examination room, encourage children to bring a favorite toy from the lobby or have a small selection of quiet toys in each examination room, which is a great place for coloring books and stickers. In fact, this is a perfect time to bring out promotional products that are designed for young clients (see Resources for Kid-Friendly Promotional Items), which are appropriate for children older than 3 years. They not only entertain youngsters, they can be taken home, so make sure your clinic's information is imprinted on the materials, including logo, name, address, phone number and website.

    Check the toy selection at least every 3 months, and throw out anything that is worn or ragged. Remember that the appearance of your entire clinic sends a message to the family, so get rid of ripped books and disfigured dolls.

    Involve Kids in the Examination

    Once the appointment actually starts in the examination room, the focus necessarily shifts from entertaining the kids to taking care of the pet. The clinic team should be trained about age-appropriate communication with children.

    The technician can explain to children in basic terms what the doctor is looking for during examination of the pet. Kids can learn how to tell when their pet is sick by identifying the normal appearance of the pet's eyes, nose, ears and even general behavior. Always keep safety in mind, however, by making sure that children remain at a distance while the pet is being examined.

    If the pet is severely ill or in crisis, the situation could become stressful for both children and adults. Therefore, parents may need time to hear the hard facts from the veterinarian and discuss difficult decisions. Children may either be upset about or not aware of the serious events happening, making the parents' decisions about the pet's health care even more difficult.

    Your practice should have a protocol, much like a human emergency room does, for emergency or critical situations. A nurse or support staff member should offer to escort children to another private area to keep them entertained and calm while their parents discuss options with the doctor. This can be a valuable client service during times of family stress. Of course, ask the parents' permission before whisking away their children.

    At home, everyone must care for the furry family members. Show that your clinic acknowledges the importance of including the whole family in the health care of their pets by providing a positive experience while the pets are in your clinic's care.

    NEXT: Managing Feline Corneal Sequestrum


    Did you know... In both the US and Europe, approximately 50% of money spent on pets is used on regular visits to veterinarians and preventative measures. Read More

    These Care Guides are written to help your clients understand common conditions. They are formatted to print and give to your clients for their information.

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