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There are a lot of important factors to consider when you decide it’s time to go out on your own and build your own practice, or to renovate or expand the one you have.  From financial considerations, to finding the right location, to hiring the right team, you have a ton of important decisions to make.

But once you’re ready to start the design work for your hospital, we’ve got some ABC basics to help you bring those decision into focus.  Starting with A:

A Great Floor Plan

A great hospital can only start from a great floor plan. This begins with providing your architect a list of what the hospital must have, which should have a basis in your business plan. This includes how many exam rooms you want and any spatial relationships, for example placing X-ray adjacent to the surgery suite. Your architect will then take this information and draw up the floor plan within the confines of your lease space or building site based on your requirements.

Here are some tips to scale up a good floor plan to great one.

  • Choose an architect who is a good listener. Period!
  • Choose an architect who is skilled enough to either know how veterinary spaces work (a veterinary architect) or one who is willing to do the homework to learn from online plans and extensive time with you. It takes commitment to do a specialty plan such as a veterinary hospital with finesse.
  • Do not lay the plan out yourself, as much as you might be tempted to do so. You need a professional designer who understands the nuances of building codes, hallway widths, ADA requirements, and on and on. You absolutely can; however, tell your architect where you want various spaces and features, such as a south-facing porch off the break room, a north-facing surgery with high windows, etc.
  • Take the time to get it right. You shouldn’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on building a plan that you don’t love. It usually takes a skilled architect at least three iterations to make a hospital plan work. Sometimes more. This time may feel frustrating (especially if your timeline is tight) but it is absolutely worth it.

Get Bang for your Buck

Making a living is harder than ever. So, it’s important to include the money-making spaces within your hospital that will give you bang for your buck. You can still build a beautiful, great place to work, but the spaces that will pay for the rest of it, should be front and center. Here are four guidelines for achieving this:

  • You can never have too many exam rooms! Maximize exam rooms whenever you can. Reduce your waiting space if possible. It is much better to have clients in the exam room being seen than waiting in the lobby.
  • If you can embrace the idea of single-door exam rooms (rather than two-door exam rooms), you can place more in the plan. While many veterinarians prefer having the second door, think of all the things you can do because you eliminated those second doors and their adjacent hallway.

Forgo the doctor’s office that practices had in 1985. We get it; it is really important to have quiet places to work or make calls, but there are newer, more space-efficient concepts. For example, a glassed, shared, fishbowl workstation, adjacent to the treatment area, is an efficient use of space, and still allows a measure of noise separation. For additional privacy, build a phone booth or two into the hospital. These work well, especially in the days of Zoom meetings, to take a video call or listen to a seminar in a semi-enclosed and less distracting environment.

  • Expand or capture a service that has promise for additional revenue. Build in a dental suite, or an indoor dog play area for daycare, or a space for alternative treatments like acupuncture. Find out what services might be missing from your community and create the space to provide it.

Design Around a Central Idea or Philosophy

Designing around a central idea is a great way to communicate your values, commitment, and personal philosophy on veterinary medicine to your clients.  What sets you and your practice apart and how can you use your hospital to relate this to your clients and community?  Below are two examples from our veterinary clients:

Transparency. The PARC in Fort Worth broke the mold by creating “the first open kitchen in veterinary medicine.” This idea requires the veterinarians and technicians to provide Fear Free techniques (considerate approach, gentle control), and to be kind and tidy, as the whole hospital is in view! This level of transparency makes this practice different from any other, and allowed us to do something completely novel with the design.

Treating Pets Like Family. This is the philosophy of Fetch Specialty and Cancer Centers, in Bonita Springs, Florida. This central idea guided the hospital design and allowed us to work together with the hospital owner to create spaces that support the vision of the practice, including this comfortable and welcoming client waiting porch.

As you begin the process with your design team, remember these ABC building blocks to help you create the hospital that will be everything you’ve been dreaming it could be.

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