17 ways to improve your waiting room

Your patients come to you because they’re unwell or in pain, so it’s important to make their visit as comfortable as possible. We've got 17 suggestions to make the waiting room experience a success

Posted: 17 May 2017

17 ways to improve your waiting room


Going to hospital, the doctors or dentist is the closest we come to understanding how it feels to be a client in your own waiting room. All too often the experience can be stressful and uncomfortable.

Your patients come to you because they’re unwell or in pain, so it’s important to make their experience as comfortable as possible. Try to offer and treat your clients the way you would want to be treated.

  1. Receptionist – one of the most important persons in the practice. Make sure they are always greet your clients and patients with a friendly way. Don’t forget that it’s as important to be discrete, so make sure their privacy and feelings are being respected.

  2. Use names - welcome your clients and pets by name, in a warm and sincere way. You can use your computer system to prompt you. Make sure all staff introduce themselves by name.

  3. Smell good - the waiting room must smell clean and pleasant. Don’t become accustomed to the normal smells you might encounter. Stay alert to the practice aroma, and ensure any offensive or unpleasant odours are removed immediately.

  4. Cleanliness – avoid carpets, rugs, upholstered furniture, pillows, or fabric seat cushions, which can stain and trap odors that stress animals. You’re always better to have furniture that can be wiped clean

  5. Decoration - make sure your waiting room doesn’t feel too clinical and sterile. Colours are important and can create a mood, so try using something to warm atmosphere. Warm lighting will also help.

  6. Personal space - chairs should be arranged in groups to allow families to sit together, yet they also need to be apart to allow patients to have personal space between them. It’s ideal if cats, rabbits and dogs are given space away from each other. If you don’t have the luxury of lots of space in your waiting room, consider taking clients and animals straight into an examination room upon arrival. This is especially helpful in emergencies and when euthanasia is necessary.

  7. Offer a drink - bottled water, coffee and tea are easy and low cost options you can offer to your clients. A water bowl with fresh clean water can be offered to your patients. A bowl of dog and cat treats will be very popular and reinforce the good reasons for visiting.

  8. Free Wifi - this is almost expected these days. We all lead busy lives, so an opportunity to use the waiting time productively by checking emails will be appreciated by many.

  9. Embrace Technology - many of us have made huge changes to our lives as we live with technology. By adapting the practice to take advantage of the modern world will enhance everything you can offer. Use, text reminders, email messages and updates, video and podcasts to your advantage

  10. Television - displaying a television in the waiting room isn’t a new idea, but it can be a gamble. You’ll have to choose carefully what you show. TV in the waiting room can sometimes take over and kill conversation and wont please all your clients.

  11. Entertain the kids - many parents are forced to bring their children with them to appointments and they generally aren’t able to sit still for long. A little activity station can help ease the child’s frustrations.

  12. Music - soft background music in waiting rooms is known to lessen anxiety and stress and create a calming space. There’s nothing worse than a silent waiting room where your patients might feel a little awkwardness.

  13. Magazines and books – monthly dog, cat and rabbit magazines are available very easily by subscription. The RSPCA, Cats Protection League and PDSA also produce free publications, which always have interesting articles. Why not also keep some pens and blank paper available for clients to write down some questions they don’t want to forget to ask you.

  14. Telephones – if possible, it may help if you move telephones away from the front reception desk. A ringing phone will be an intrusion on the conversations in the waiting room.

  15. Watch the time – we all hate a long unexpected wait. Try to respect the client’s time and let them know as soon as possible of any delays. You could offer to reschedule their appointment.

  16. Be upfront - always discuss a patient’s treatment plan before a procedure is carried out. A well thought out estimate is better than an unexpectedly high invoice.

  17. Appreciate stress - clients are often anxious when picking up their pet. Discharges should always be done in a private consulting area, which allows time for reviewing any questions about the procedure, home-care instructions and the bill.