No space in a veterinary hospital is going to leave more of a lasting impression on a prospective client than the waiting room. The name itself has a negative connotation, but through thoughtful and careful planning you can turn this potentially unpleasant impression into a winning one.
Your waiting room is really an extension of your entry and as discussed in our previous newsletter provides the image you want to present to the public. If your entry is a greeting, your lobby is a handshake. Though there are similarities to human hospitals, the design of a veterinary hospital waiting room requires uniquely critical considerations that should be addressed early in the design process. These include both odor and noise control.
Odor - Nothing is more oft-putting to a client than a foul smelling waiting room. It is easily the most noticeable and addressable issue that affects the impression you are imparting. Make sure those designing your HVAC systems understand the nuances of veterinary design and provide isolation from animal holding areas. This should be done both mechanically and in the space planning process through physical isolation.
Noise – Bringing an animal to a veterinary hospital is unsettling for both the owner and their animal companion. Often this anxiety will take vocal form, and though it can’t be entirely eliminated, it can be reduced. Carefully consider the spatial planning of your waiting area and try to provide flexible seating that will offer a degree of privacy that can serve to reduce anxiety. Though space is always at a premium consider seating orientations that reduce direct interaction of animals or that offer areas of refuge for upset animals. Moving clients and their companions directly to exam rooms is a strategy that may not only reduce required waiting room space, but will also provide immediate refuge where an anxious animal can be calmed.
Noise is a multi-faceted issue that includes both noise created in the waiting area as well as noise transmitted from the clinical areas of the facility. Waiting room noise can be reduced by spatial configuration and material choices. Sound deadening baffles or sound absorbent ‘clouds’ may be suspended from high ceiling areas and acoustical ceiling tiles can be used in low areas. Walls can be decoratively covered with strategically placed sound absorbent materials that complement your interior color scheme. With today’s easily cleanable polymer fabrics furniture can also offer a sound deadening quality.
Your animal holding areas need not be a noise nuisance and can be effectively isolated from noise sensitive areas of your facility – particularly your waiting room. Holding areas should be spatially isolated as well as constructed of materials and configurations of high STC rating. Walls should extend to the deck above and any penetrations should be carefully considered. Acoustical suspended ceilings may be utilized below the deck to provide secondary isolation. Doors should be provided with sound seals.
In coming posts we’ll explore more design implications of your waiting room and delve deeper into the veterinary hospital planning process. Every veterinary practice is unique and by no means should a waiting room be considered ‘one size fits all’. Rather, like a handshake, it should be reflective of your practice’s distinctive personality.