Three Ways to Improve Surgical Experiences for Clients

By Wendy S. Myers
August, 2017

Clients may feel anxious when pets face surgical and dental procedures. Help your customers gain clients’ trust, because pets will need multiple procedures during their lifetimes. Here are three ways to ensure five-star experiences:

1. Provide treatment plans before admission. Before hospitalizing any patient, veterinarians should provide a treatment plan and get the pet owner’s signature for consent. A treatment plan serves four purposes: 1) Gives you legal permission to treat, 2) Explains services to be delivered, 3) Estimates the cost of care, and 4) States payment policies.

To ask for consent, a veterinarian could say, “To get your permission to admit your pet to the hospital, I need your signature on the treatment plan. I will give you a copy so you have information on the services and fees we discussed.” 

2. Schedule admission and discharge appointments. Six clients arrive at 8 a.m. to admit their pets for surgery. Two receptionists scramble to check-in patients while answering four phone lines. A client shouts, “Can you get more people to help us? You said I could just drop off my dog. Now I’m late for work!”

This admission disaster happens too often at veterinary clinics. Instead of a drop-off approach, veterinary practices may want to schedule admission appointments. When the client books the surgery, the receptionist would enter a specific check-in time and tell the client, “We have scheduled your pet’s dental procedure for Friday. Your admission appointment with the nurse is at 8 a.m. Please allow 15 minutes to complete the admission forms and receive instructions on how we will care for <pet name>. We also will call/text you to confirm the procedure and email your paperwork one day in advance.”

Have complex cases check in first, which allows time for preanesthetic testing and longer recovery. Here is a sample admission schedule:

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3. Set discharge appointments at the time of admission. After paperwork is complete, the nurse would tell the client, “Let’s schedule your discharge appointment after 4 p.m., when your pet will be ready to go home. You will meet with a nurse/doctor for ___ minutes, who will explain the results of the procedure, medication instructions and answer your questions. Do you prefer 4:30 or 4:45 p.m. for your discharge appointment?” (Client responds.) “I see that you prefer text notification when <pet name> wakes up, so we will send you a text and remind you of the discharge appointment at 4:30 p.m. If you have questions today, here is my business card so you can ask for me.”

Put discharge appointments that nurses will handle the Nurse Appointment column. If a nurse will discharge the patient, the veterinarian may want to do the wakeup phone call. If a doctor will release the patient, put the appointment in his schedule. Budget 15 minutes for discharge appointments.

4. Complete consent forms in advance. Use text and email together. Text the client, “See you tomorrow at 8 a.m. for <pet name’s> surgical admission. No food after 10 p.m. Water is OK. We emailed surgical forms to <email>. Reply with questions.” The text prompts the client to check his email, where you may provide fasting instructions and attach consent forms and treatment plans.

The email would state: “We will see <pet name> for surgery tomorrow at <Your Veterinary Hospital>. Withhold food after ___ p.m. tonight. Water is OK to drink to prevent dehydration. Your surgical admission begins at 8 a.m. with a nurse, who will spend 15 minutes reviewing the consent form, answering your questions and getting phone numbers where we can reach you the day of the procedure. I’ve attached your treatment plan and anesthesia consent forms. To speed your admission, please bring these signed forms with you, or we can answer questions during check-in. Please allow at least 15 minutes for <pet name>’s admission to our hospital. If you have questions, call 555-555-5555.”

Get more tips in my webinar on “Creating the 5-Star Experience for Surgery and Dentistry.” As a sales professional, you may sponsor a webinar for an individual hospital for $99, which includes one-hour of CE credit, unlimited playback, handout, online test and CE certificate. Save $10 per hospital when you enter promo code SALES at checkout. Enter your information in “bill to” and the clinic details in “ship to”. Order at To host the training, bring your laptop, projector and computer speakers.  

Wendy S. Myers owns Communication Solutions for Veterinarians in Castle Pines, Colo. She helps teams improve client service, communication skills and compliance through consulting, seminars and monthly CE credit webinars. Wendy is a certified veterinary journalist and author of 101 Communication Skills for Veterinary Teams. She offers training packages for receptionists and entire teams. You can reach her at or

Topics: Communication Solutions for Veterinarians


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