As everyone knows, a friendly professional front office atmosphere is important to patients. A warm greeting by name is essential. When tied up on the phone or tending another patient, a smile with a nod goes a long way. Being ignored or worse, using that gruff, straight-up finger point with a mouthed, “One minute,” is unacceptable.
Projecting a sincere welcome is also important to the well-being, harmony, and efficiency of the entire staff, including the doctor. Who wants a dissatisfied patient before treatment has even begun? Creating a pleasant atmosphere helps everyone get through the roughest of days. Most offices have ambient music in the waiting room, and many have fish tanks—very soothing, very calming. And calm patients are what we want. We don’t have a practice without patients and certainly not a rewarding one without satisfied patients.
I have a rural home office. Our horses, sheep, dogs and other animals can be very soothing, as well as entertaining, to nervous dental patients. Excited to come to the dentist, the kids bring treats for our rescue dogs and carrots for the horses. We discourage sugar cubes, although I’m sure the horses would like them. Our koi pond is now fenced off after one youngster waded in and got soaked. This blend has lent itself to many unusual experiences. We once had peacocks.
Peacocks are pretty and the kids loved them. Other than that, there’s not much reason to recommend them. Although I built a chain link fence, eight feet high, they still managed to get out. Then they’d wander the surrounding countryside until some neighbor called to tell me where they were. I’d have to chase them, squawking and running erratically to herd them home. My wife said I looked like the village idiot. My daughter and I clipped their wings (another story), but they still got out.
We offer office hours one Saturday a month to accommodate folks who can’t otherwise make an appointment. One of these cherished days dawned dreary, drizzling cold rain under a low cloud cover. No one detoured from the parking lot to treat the horses, as it was too nasty out. About halfway through the morning, people came in talking about the dogs. They were gnawing on something disgusting beside the driveway.But there were “beautiful feathers” all over the parking lot. As I looked out the window, a gust of wind blew a flurry of colorful feathers up the driveway.
My heart sank.I knew the dogs were eating them during one of our busiest days, with myriad patients coming and going. A dog chowing down on a peacock wasn’t going to relax anyone. At the end of the morning, after the last patient left, I started to storm outside to discipline those mutts when my wife stopped me at the door. She looked at me and said, “You’ve got birds and bird dogs. You have to choose.” Calming down a bit, I chose the dogs and have never looked back. Besides, the birds were already history.
Today, a remnant of an unused aviary can be seen out by the barn. A fish tank in the waiting room is easier, safer, and less traumatic should a patient find a fish floating belly up.
Jim Rhea, DMD