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Guest blog by Dr Samyra Stuart-Altman @samyra.jamie | InkNaturally

I often joke that some of my Small Animal Medicine shifts look more like an example of a request only radio show.  There are days when every appointment title is preceded by the word “request.” I am always relieved to see those days because it means that my schedule is made up entirely of clients with whom I have trusted relationships.  And let me tell you, those days tend to fly by.  Most of the appointments feel more like a visit with friends, than a formal medical exam.  And yet, those are also my most productive days.  I can feel it in my attitude and energy, and I can see it in my production at the end of the day.  So how do I go about getting day after day of request-only appointments?  I am more than happy to share with any veterinarian interested in learning!

First, I will ask you to reflect on a positive experience with a physician who was dealing with your own health care.  If I were to guess, I would say that you experienced one or all of the following:

You felt that your concerns for your health were heard, understood and acknowledged

You felt validated in your concerns

You experienced a thorough exam and/or diagnostic work-up

You felt comfortable and safe in the discussion of your health

Presumably, the medical outcome was good or is still in progress

Now reflect on a time in which you experienced the opposite with a physician managing your care.

Did you feel rushed?

Were you heard, understood and acknowledged?

Did you feel like you could ask questions about the plan either now, or later?

Perhaps the outcome was good, but you may have nothing good to say about the doctor or your experience in general?

Think about that last line a little bit more, and then place it within the context of a client visiting a veterinary hospital.  If the client does not feel that their concerns were heard, and that their goals for their pet were acknowledged, then even the best outcome will not result in that client feeling bonded to that hospital and loyal to their veterinarian.  However, if we listen to our clients, and ensure that they feel safe and understood, then we can establish a relationship built equally on trust and expertise.  And this, results in the practice of best medicine for each patient that you treat.

Now let’s say a new client has a great first experience with you as their veterinarian.  They make a mental note of your name, and then next time they call for an appointment, they request you specifically.  The second appointment goes well, and all of a sudden the client learns that the positive experience they enjoyed the first time, is in fact repeatable! This in turn leads your new client to learning how to become one of your best clients (see my previous article, How to make all of your clients your “best clients”).  And even more magical, is the next thing that happens, which is that they start to refer their family and friends.  Before you know it, your list of “request only” appointments will grow as your exclusive client list grows too.  And even better than that, is a little secret that I have learned over the years: Great clients refer great clients. 

It is important to remember that we can’t make everyone happy, and many of my peers sacrifice their mental health in trying to do exactly that.  We also can’t make our clients like us by saying yes to their every request.  But if your goal is to be a very good veterinarian, and likewise to be an authentic and ethical person, then the right clients will surely find you.  

Strive to be an approachable professional.  Be an ally to your clients and an advocate for your patients. Act within the values of the trusted family veterinarian.  If you can focus on these goals, your appointment schedule will soon be all requests, all day.

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