Millie and her unborn Pups urgently needed our help, it was a true emergency. Not an uncommon occurrence at the Vets. This was a case literally of life and death, no two ways about it. Action was required and whatever we had planned to do previously, needed to be rescheduled.
Most of the clients we contacted, were great. We explained what we needed to do and they said fine, hope things go well. A smaller minority were less keen at a delay to their day, but did allow us to change their appointment. These events set me thinking about what waiting time and the whole experience means to owners and their pets, and how the modern world seems to be moving to a busier place where time is more precious. Is our instant world making us less tolerant of waiting? Or is there understanding and compassion to be found?
As a Vets, we understand the need for organisation, we prefer to run that way and try our best to organise both ourselves and our clients. We run a pre bookable appointment system, which we try to prioritise according to needs of the patient and client. I’ve worked at places that do not have an appointment system and to say it can be a bit of zoo is an understatement. People used to arrive an hour early in order to get first place in the queue, and we always over ran by over an hour until everyone had been seen. The wait was unpleasantly expected, the experience was stressful and the animals did not enjoy it either!
We like you to know when you are likely to be seen which hopefully should make the whole visit much more relaxing than sitting for some time in a waiting room full to bursting. We will always try to see you early if we can, knowing that you have other stuff to do than wait for us. We juggle our appointments on an ad hoc basis if someone is running late so the next person who turned up ahead of time can have the earlier slot. So if they do arrive late, we will still have time to see them. Sometimes people book appointments, they seem to have no intention of turning up for. Very annoying for everyone waiting for them and for those we delay in seeing either that day or into the next, when we really did have time in hand but did not know.
We normally have 15 minute appointment slots which is longer than the average, and if we think that is not enough we will double book that time at no extra cost. Sometimes we do run later than planned during appointments because an animal or an owner needs a little more time or a case turns out to be more complex than originally triaged for over the phone.
We try to have free emergency/catch up evening slots to allow urgent and prompt attention but even then sometimes it’s not enough. I wish I could say that we have time every day for a tea break, but that would not be true. Unfortunately the world of veterinary practice can be unpredictable and occasionally chaotic, there is no organising that.
Sometimes we run late because clients are late for their appointments, there’s often a very reasonable explanation. But that is little consolation to the next client on the list that has turned up early for their appointment then had to wait for the late one. The animal needs to be seen and that means that other clients may end up waiting longer than we and they would like. Let me tell you a little secret – we sometimes manage to organise clients who are perennially late by making sure they arrive at the time we are expecting them. I’m not going to tell you how but most of the time we do manage!
Recently my own horse was very ill and had to be taken as an emergency to her equine vet for possible colic surgery. I was very grateful to those clients who gave up their appointments and the vets and nurses who spent time after hours looking after her. I even had help from someone I did not know, asking if they could use their headlights to shine into my horses trailer to help load her that night. I am sure they have been in a similar emergency situation themselves and appreciate that a little consideration and help goes a long way.
I am glad say that Millie, her Pups and Babe (my horse) are ok, and we are grateful for those who were prepared to wait and help. So if we are running late, it’s not of lack of organisation; it may be due to many factors outside our control. But as a national advert used to say, One day it might be you.