Planning A Functional Vet Clinic
Most people view their pets as an integral part of their family. The importance of the animal and their human feeling comfortable and safe when they walk in the doors of a veterinary practice is crucial. When creating a clinic, one must consider several things to create a synergistic design that accommodates the unique patients in a comfortable, relaxed, and pleasant atmosphere so that both pets and their owners feel welcomed and cared for.
We know that a visit to a veterinary clinic can often be a stressful event for both the client and their pets. It is necessary to provide a high standard of medical care while also creating a comfortable, anxiety-free environment for both the animal and their human companions.
The initial experience begins with the exterior of the building. Many animals have already experienced some anxiety in their travel to the clinic. Designing an area where the animal can do their “business” creates a safe and inviting feel for the animals and their companion before they even enter the clinic. This may also alleviate some accidents inside the clinic.
One should carefully consider the overall floorplan of the clinic to ensure there is a flow-through of traffic from the reception area to the treatment rooms, to the prep area, to the surgery center, and kennel area. For instance, you will want to make sure that the prep area and surgery area are located beside one another and do not require entering the same hallway as the treatment rooms. Let’s walk through the 6 key areas of a Functional Veterinary Clinic.
Initial impressions are important but are crucial in the business of animals. Reception areas may differ in size and design from clinic to clinic, but some features will remain the same. Reception areas need to be inviting and calming, which can help alleviate anxious energy. Designing a space with low distractions that lack clutter is key and includes the reception desk area and product displays. A secure entry door is essential to creating a safe environment for everyone. Planning a space that is open and bright with natural light assists in helping create the positive energy needed to relax both the animals and their human companions.
It is also notable that the area needs to provide a space where animals can be separated, as some of the patients will be comfortable interacting with other animals and people. Still, for others, this may cause increased anxiety. This area sometimes includes products (food, medicine, grooming) that must be displayed simply and cleanly. Materials to use in this area and throughout the clinic may consist of hard surface flooring, suspended acoustic ceilings, LED lighting, and warm and inviting paint colors. Some materials to consider throughout the clinic include marble, stone, wood, and glass. Furniture to have in this area and sometimes in the treatment rooms are bariatric chairs and benches.
The need to create a calming and stress-free space carries over to the exam/treatment rooms. This area must feel roomy and provide an area for the animal and human companion to wait on the doctor and for the exam to be completed. Providing seating for the human companion delivers a welcoming feel. The seating offers a space for the client to wait and also place their belongings while the animal is being examined. Deciding on how many exam rooms will depend on the overall area of the building, the number of veterinarians, business plan, and community need. A good rule of thumb is to have at least two exam rooms for each practicing vet.
Equipment placed in each exam/treatment room will vary from veterinarian to veterinarian. Still, these rooms generally also include a prep area for any treatments, storage for supplies, sink, garbage receptacle, and of course, an easily accessible area to keep the animal treats. Vet tables come in all shapes and sizes and can come in both a fold-down and stationary style. Exam tables can also be a peninsula off one of the walls in the room, creating a space that allows the doctor not to have their back to the animal’s companion. The work surface area dimensions are usually 24×48, allowing for small, large dogs and pet carriers examinations. Using materials surfaces that can be quickly sterilized is vital.
STAND-ALONE SURGERY & DENTAL SUITES
Creating space that allows enough room for the necessary staff and all necessary medical equipment (anesthesia machine, surgery cart, x-ray machine, medical gas(adequately stored)) to be used ergonomically is key. This area needs to be nicely lit with additional medical lighting available as well. The space must allow the staff to access all sides of the operating table and access the necessary surgery tools. The surgery table must be large enough to accommodate a large dog comfortably.
Depending on the size of the practice, the surgical suite may contain one or more operating rooms, a scrub room, a recovery room, and an area for medical gas. Some practices can have dental suites that are separate from their operating rooms, while others use the operating room for the dental procedures they perform. It is vital that the materials utilized in this area are hospital grade and easily sterilized. It remains important that these practice areas are easily accessible to one another and don’t require returning to the main hallways. Some practices utilize large viewing windows for the dogs in recovery so they can be monitored.
GROOMING AND BATHING AREA
This area can contain a peninsula-style table with the necessary restraints for the animal to keep them safe during the grooming process. The space can include a stainless steel tub, grooming equipment and generally includes mechanical exhaust venting.
ODOR AND NOISE CONTROL
Some additional items that you want to consider are minimizing odor and containing noise. Both of these senses can heighten an animal’s anxiety and the human companion’s experience. Of course, there will always be some odor should an animal have an accident, but to avoid constant issues with odor, the clinic must include systems that have multiple air supply and returns that flow to the outside. To cut down the noise factor, be sure to incorporate textures on walls, sound-absorbing mats,double-wall construction, textured and higher ceilings.
A common issue is the amount of storage in all areas of the clinic. You want to store supplies, medical equipment, tools, product, and office supplies.
Designing a clinic requires precision, and the functionality is based in the details. Both the “front of house” and “clinical” areas of the practice are equally important. Working with a professional contractor and architect will ensure that your space is efficiently utilized. It is professionally executed and provides the best experience for both the animals and their human companions.
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