Vet exam room

When I’m not on the road for Good Morning America, on a book tour or speaking at a veterinary conference, I work at one of the two veterinary hospitals not far from our Idaho home. I used to own veterinary hospitals, but after I started working full time in media, I stopped practicing for a few years. I missed it, though, and I was delighted to find two top-notch hospitals (North Idaho Animal Hospital in Sand Point and Lakewood Animal Hospital in Coeur D’Alene) that were happy to have me as a colleague when I have time to practice. I love being back in the trenches!

Why We Leave You in the Waiting Room

Recently, I have been helping both of these hospitals refine their mission statements. At North Idaho Animal Hospital, they developed not only a new mission statement but also a very good motto: “We practice as if you’re always right there.”

I was thinking about that the other day when someone asked me why it’s routine for veterinarians to take animals "in the back," without an owner, when we need to treat them. I’m sure you know we’re not hiding anything, but do you know why we practice this way? There are some good — and simple — reasons.

Less stress for you, for your pet — and for us. Your pet may actually be much more difficult (or even dangerous) to handle in your presence, either because he’s trying to protect you or is sensing your concern for him. For many pets, getting away from Mom or Dad and being handled by a confident, experienced, animal-loving veterinary technician means getting the procedure done faster and with less stress for everyone. This is especially true if needles or medical procedures gross you out or make you lightheaded!

More room to move. In most veterinary clinics and hospitals, “the back” is actually a very open area with comfortable tables over long sinks, a setup designed to provide an easy-clean area for procedures that can get messy. Exam rooms are generally smaller, with less room to maneuver, especially with the pet owner (or two, and sometimes children as well) taking up room without knowing the best place to stand or how to help — or even if (and when) staying out of the way is better.

Access to necessary equipment. The “back room” is equipped with everything we need to treat your pet, right at our fingertips, so we can work quickly and efficiently. It doesn’t work as well to partially stock exam rooms because then we’re forced to leave the room to fetch other items as they are needed, which slows down the exam process. We do our jobs best as veterinarians when everything we need — including things we don’t know we need until something goes wrong — is right where we can reach it in an instant.

The bottom line is that there isn’t anything going on in the back that you should worry about. Your veterinarian has nothing to hide, and a lot to be proud of, in a modern, well-run practice. If you’re curious about what the back room looks like, ask for a tour! While there may be times when it’s not possible to go behind the scenes (other sick pets, emergencies and such), you’ll likely be able to see it all without any hassle.

When you do see what’s in the back, I am pretty sure you’ll be impressed, and I have a feeling you’ll come to understand that “we practice as if you’re always right there” is more than just a slogan for me and for my colleagues. They’re words we live by!