10 things you need to purge from your vet hospital right now

Outdated posters, mercury thermometers and dust bunnies are a few of things that may make your clients think less of you

As I travel around, performing surgery at different clinics, I am sometimes surprised to see things with a fresh pair of eyes that the owner and the staff don’t seem to notice at all.

Keep in mind that I work with smart doctors, so the list below does not reflect their quality as clinicians. In fact, some of the items below can be found at some of my very best clinics.

Let’s go through 10 things that have no place in a veterinary hospital.

1. Mercury Thermometers

One of my most progressive clinics still has mercury thermometers.

Do you know who invented the mercury thermometer in 1714? A German engineer, physicist and glass blower named—wait for it; this is really cool—Daniel Fahrenheit.

Mercury thermometers are being phased out because of the dangers of throwing away intact or broken thermometers. Mercury is highly toxic, whether we inhale the vapors or eat contaminated fish.

To dispose of a mercury thermometer, don’t just throw it away. Contact a local or state recycling center.

Get a digital thermometer. You will be amazed how much faster and accurate they are.

2. Outdated Posters

Posters showing everything from drug dosages to CPR flow charts to flea and tick cycles decorate most clinics. Sadly, the posters are often outdated, yellowed, damaged or dusty. They reflect poorly on the image you are trying to convey to clients.

3. Clutter

Take a few minutes to walk around your clinic with a fresh and objective pair of eyes. You will realize how much clutter has accumulated in every room over the years.

As time goes by, the temporary becomes permanent. Old journals, junk mail, expired drugs, forgotten pet belongings. The list goes on.

Not only do they take up space and collect dust, they also create stress. Professional organizers tell us that the clutter in your environment reflects the clutter in your mind. Ouch!

4. Dead plants

Adding live plants to a waiting room can be a nice touch, but plants that aren’t thriving become an eyesore. Consciously or not, some clients may wonder: “If you can’t keep your plants alive, how will you keep my pet alive?”

5. Non-OR Equipment

Logic 101 tells us that if you have clippers and a vacuum cleaner in your operating room, you will clip patients on the surgery table and vacuum the hair.

Yet Asepsis 101 tells us that patients should not be clipped in the OR. The combination of clippers and vacuum will launch tiny pieces of hair into the air, contaminating the surgery site. Patients should be clipped in the treatment room, vacuumed and then carried into the OR.

6. Old Periodicals

Most of your clients have probably heard about Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction by now. So you can get rid of that People magazine from 2004. Make sure you send the right message by keeping magazines politically correct and up to date.

7. Unwelcome Microwave

Unless you are using a microwave only to warm patient food or water bottles, the appliance should not be anywhere near patients. Veterinary clinics are notorious for always having food around, in part because of pet owners’ generosity.

Meanwhile, U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations are very strict. A surprise inspection could cost you a lot of money. No food or open containers are permitted in any treatment or lab area.

Don’t believe me? Check out my 2014 article, “How one practice survived a surprise OSHA inspection,” here.

8. Broken Items

Veterinarians and technicians are notorious for fixing things MacGyver-style. A little bit of white tape, a pinch of creativity and most broken items can survive a few more months.

Keep in mind that damaged and taped-up X-ray gowns, clippers and electric cords create a potential danger to your staff.

Beyond the eyesore aspect, jerry-rigged equipment tells team members that their safety isn’t valuable to you.

9. Old Film

If you still use physical X-ray films as opposed to digital radiographs—there is nothing wrong with that—you do not need to keep old film on the shelf forever.

First, check how long your state requires you to keep medical records such as radiographs. The number of years varies from state to state. The American Veterinary Medical Association lists state requirements here.

Second, you may make a bit of money if you send the film to a recycling company that extracts silver.

“Throwing films in the trash is not a good idea because silver is a heavy metal that will contaminate the environment,” said Ian Robertson, a board-certified radiologist at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “Their disposal is regulated by the EPA. If you throw X-ray film in the trash, you are responsible for proving to the EPA that the quantity disposed of does not exceed regulatory limits.”

Good luck with that.

10. Dust Bunnies

Clearly, hair and dirt in a veterinary practice are unavoidable. But it’s a matter of degree. If you notice dust bunnies larger than your patients, it may be time to implement a regular cleaning protocol. The same applies to dead bugs.

You may have noticed maintenance checklists in airport and restaurant restrooms. Every hour or so an employee cleans and restocks the restroom and signs the checklist.

You may want to implement something similar in your waiting room, exam rooms, treatment room, kennel and OR.

Fortunately, implementing these simple changes is easy and inexpensive. Even better, you don’t have to do any of this yourself. Your wonderful team members will be happy to help.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. Kelly Serfas, CVT, of Bethlehem, Pa., contributed to this article.

Originally published in the August 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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