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It’s a trend, for sure: Despite the down economy, fancy vet hospitals are sprouting up all over the country. Glossy trade magazines routinely tout the glories of hospitals that look more like spas than animal enterprises. And most urban centers “spoil” local pet owners with specialty hospitals that evoke four-star hotels.
But are flowing fountains, cathedral ceilings and frothy cappuccinos worth it? After all, you're paying for all these bells and whistles, whether you see them on your invoice or not.
Of course, it’s crucial for a veterinary hospital to be meticulously maintained and über-clean. It’s also important to ease the tension of the often unpleasant clinical experience — for pets and their humans. But does that have to translate into luxury?
To be fair to hospitals that strive for excellence with every fiber of their being, I would never begrudge them the right to express their pride and worth by any means necessary. If it takes a bank of flat-screen TVs in the lobby to make that happen, who am I to quibble with issues best chalked up to a difference in personal taste?
Yet, somehow, it still irks. I can’t help it.
For example, it bugs me to see an expensive espresso machine set up. All I can think about is how little this piece of machinery benefits my patients. I mean, can someone explain to me why I have this [enter luxury item here], yet I still can’t get that extra syringe pump, updated suction tool, sharper Metzenbaum scissors or new carbon dioxide monitor I really do need to bring better medicine to my patients?
You’re probably getting an inkling now of the frustrations that mar the daily work life of someone who does not own her own practice, but that’s really not what this post is about.
Rather, it has more to do with how annoying it is to me that the things pet owners can't see are often shuttled to the side to make way for more readily conveyed signals of quality — like an expensive new façade or a fancy fish tank.
Am I being hypocritical? After all, I’d want any hotel, restaurant, spa, gym or yoga studio I frequent to offer me an aesthetic experience.
Or could it be that I’m simply suffering the jealous pangs common to those among us insufficiently profligate to purchase pretty inessentials? Maybe a little.
Still, I’ll strongly argue that my stance is every bit the same when it comes to my choice of physicians. Consider my general practitioner: She has faded prints on the wall that have been there for the past 40 years. And that’s how I want it — I’d rather she plow her profits back into the part of her business I really care about, which is excellent healthcare.
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