In the peak hours of our emergency hospital (DoveLewis) the wait to see a doctor or get results for diagnostics can be long. Especially when there are multiple emergencies and urgent care visits pulling staff in every direction. The wait can be a challenge for our clients who live and operate in a “have it your way and have it now!" world that the internet, fast coffee and on-demand services has created. We all know the x-rays might only take 15 minutes to obtain, but if a patient is third in queue to get x-rays the wait time is going to extend. It could be an hour by the time the doctor is able to review the images and get back with that client.
The staff at the front desk is able to see the clients in the lobby and are the main conduit for relaying information on the status of both patient care and the client experience. So what are the “little things” we can do for our clients who are waiting, to help them feel more connected and cared about?
- Honesty is the best policy.
Let clients know about the flow of the half hour, or hour(s) and give them context not only at intake but during the entire visit. Even when we are not able to offer an exact timeline for these clients, letting them know what is occurring (like an all-hands-on-deck emergency is happening, or that they are the seventh client to check-in this hour) allows them to have a sense how the visit will go. Simply keeping open communication and contact lets them know they haven't been forgotten, even if the wait could be long.
- A kind word or quick check-in can help calm a worried pet parent during a wait.
When we don’t have an update on the patient's status, we can still inquire how a client is doing or an offer to grab tea or water for them. This is just is a nice comfort to the individual, and shows great care for the client while their pet is receiving great medical care. Engaging with clients and acknowledging their experience and humanity helps make any lobby experience (especially a long night at ER) much more bearable.
- Check for understanding.
Always see if the client has any more questions at discharge. The client could be tired, confused, overwhelmed or generally "out of it" so it's helpful to assure they have all the information they need for the continued care of their pet. We also let them know we are always open (for most practice, it's helpful to let them know your business hours, and local ER contact for after-hours) so they can call with questions after they've departed and had time to process the information from their visit. This lets them know they are not alone after they leave the hospital and have our support beyond the visit.