What it means to me to offer a practice that's fear free
Oct 22, 2014

By Ruth Loomis, DVM

Practicing veterinary medicine is my passion but when I first started my career over nine years ago, I never intended to be a practice owner. I just wanted to focus on honing my medical skills to become an excellent veterinarian and leave the stresses of running a clinic to someone else.  How things have changed since then.

Over the years working as an associate I was able to observe various approaches to practice management and veterinary medicine and in doing so, became increasingly aware of the correlation between the overall quality of care provided, the happiness of staff and the general sense of wellbeing a clinic promotes. It became quite clear that a deficiency in any of these areas greatly affects the client experience.  The relationship between these two branches of a clinic is not a distinct entity. Practice management affects the overall happiness of the staff and in turn affects the sense of wellbeing a clinic promotes to its clients.  

Sometimes we just want to do more. 

The veterinarian I always wanted to be was a skilled professional, passionate about fostering the health and happiness of animals and their people. I realized that if I wanted to continue to bring this same level of passion to my work, I needed to create a place that truly enhanced the overall experience for the animals, my clients and staff. 

Brookswood Animal Clinic brings new life to the concept of animal care by fostering a sense of wellbeing in my patients. While functioning as a state-of-the-art animal hospital, we place an emphasis on creating a warm and welcoming space that sets the tone for the entire practice and patient experience. I wanted our professional staff to enjoy being at the clinic and for our clients to instantly feel welcome. The vision for Brookswood Animal Clinic also included being able to give back to the animal community on a broader scale and to empower the team to do so as well.  (As an associate I could only do so much work with shelters, rescue groups and therapy dogs providing needed veterinary services at reduced or no cost on a regular basis). Finally, above all, my approach to medicine is sensitive to the unique needs of our animal clients.

Dr. Marty Becker created the term “Fear Free” in response to his realization that those of us in the veterinary field have been under serving our patients by not recognizing the debilitating effects of anxiety and fear.  The first tenet of bioethics is to do no harm and according to Dr. Becker, “we're causing harm” when we push through an exam or a procedure using harsh restraint techniques instead of modifying our approach based on the patient’s response.  Veterinary medicine should be about the emotional wellbeing of the patient and not just the physical wellbeing. 

Designing a “Fear Free” Clinic

Careful clinic design can create an environment that is less stressful for clients and pets. At Brookswood Animal Clinic, we have created separate dog and cat waiting areas to decrease stress for our feline patients and lessen excitement for our canines.  The exam rooms all have fold-up exam tables, which allows for a more spacious setting and less sense of being “trapped”— especially for our larger patients.  The design of one our exam rooms is more like someone’s living room than a hospital exam room – with an indoor/outdoor rug, comfortable chairs and sofa along with large windows, this space is ideal for that dog or cat that has experienced extreme “vet” related anxiety in the past.   Hospitalized felines will appreciate the serenity of our separate cat ward  away from the potential stress of being surrounded by panting, barking dogs.  The dog ward allows the canine patients to have a quiet space to recuperate, away from the busy treatment area.  Both dog and cat wards have natural light from windows.  The dog runs have heated floors with a non-slip surface so even our largest patients can be kept comfortable. 

Brookswood Animal Clinic is the result of hard work and a personal mission to provide the Bend community with best veterinary care possible and a gentle approach to services I feel are important to offer.  Aside from meeting my own high standards and honoring Dr. Becker’s approach, I want this clinic to be the best there is for the veterinarians who work with me, the best for the patients who need our help, and for their families who trust us with their care. I want the best for the staff that have placed so much faith in me to join me on this journey and only the best for the community that has embraced my family and me.  There will certainly be much to learn as a new practice owner, and there’s no question that I am always learning as a veterinarian, but I feel confident that I am on the right path.  I look forward to seeing my existing clients and meeting new ones at our new home.  I welcome your feedback and suggestions on how we can do better!

In my next post, I will talk more about what it means to strive to be a “fear-free” practice. Until then, I want to leave you with my expression of sincere gratitude as we embark on this journey into a new practice. 

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