Checking your clinic's chi
In remodeling or building a hospital, you'll think about improving traffic patterns, isolating odors, and making things as pet- and people-friendly as possible. Well, your ideas may be in perfect alignment with the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui. Feng shui can create an overwhelming aura of comfort, nurturing, and success so that clients feel welcome and cared for.
If you don't know where to start, feng shui expert Sandy Bond, PhD, owner of the consulting company Building Chi, has some ideas. Whether or not you believe in "chi," a subtle energy that feng shui practitioners say needs to flow freely in physical spaces, you may still decide to build a fountain or burn essential oils to mellow out agitated clients and patients.
Yes, all the things you've heard about feng shui in homes can be applied to your veterinary clinic—with a twist, says Bond, who lives in Australia with her veterinarian husband. "The only difference is the emphasis," she says. "The aim of business feng shui is to produce an environment that is calm, efficient, healthy, and conducive to good decision-making."
Those four elements can make for happy employees, productive work, efficient business practices, and increased profits, according to Bond. Who doesn't want those? So relax, sit back, and let Bond teach you how you too can sweep out the bad energy and bring in the good.
Bond's first question for you is about the previous occupant of your building. Did this building become vacant because the last business went belly-up? Do you feel a twinge of worry that the previous occupant's luck might rub off on you? That's natural, says Bond.
"It's called the predecessor law," she says. "Successive businesses are affected by residual energy on the site. It can work for you if the energy is one of success. If previous businesses failed, however, it's important to ritually clear the space of all old energy."
Bond suggests simple space-clearing techniques like burning essential oils—"Lavender is a good choice," she says—or "smudging" the air with burning sage by waving it around each room.
If that all sounds a little too wacky for you, why not think of it as a celebration to get your practice off on the right foot? Whatever this building was before, you and your staff now want to think of it as a truly new place. Some kind of ritual, party, or get-together can help.
Enter in peace
Now that you've freshened up the place, it's time to apply Bond's tips for making a feng-shui-friendly reception area:
> Well-done welcome. It sounds like common sense, but it beats repeating: Your reception area should be the first thing clients see coming in the door, Bond says. It should not, however, be in a direct line with or too close to the entrance. This can seem confrontational and intimidating to clients. A reception desk should ideally be put to one side of the doorway, allowing both reception staff and clients a comfortable meeting space before clients are thrust into the maelstrom of chairs and other pets.
> Check out the curves. Curved reception desks are common among Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition winners. "A curved desk presents a welcoming line to clients and acts as an energy 'scoop,' pulling in and retaining beneficial chi," Bond says. And you thought they were just pretty.
> Sight and sound. Designers counsel clients to consider the importance of color and its emotional impact on clients. That goes for feng shui, too, says Bond, who points out that the color blue especially can help eliminate fear.
Giving clients something to see, smell, and hear is also important. Bond recommends lush plants, a water feature like a fountain, a drinking fountain for clients, and disposable water bowls for pets. Soothing music, comfortable waiting room furniture, and the "clean, subtle fragrance" of pure essential oils will also work to cleanse your reception area of previous clients' anxious energy and mellow those lounging there now.
Bond says the pets themselves are the most important and fragile element in the reception area. "When pets are in a depleted state, they need to have their chi protected." she says. "An environment that creates stress can cause it to scatter. That stress then inhibits animals' positive reaction to treatment, hindering the work that could be possible if they were able to relax and release beforehand." You don't have to believe in chi to know the benefit of having relaxed pets and clients show up in the exam room.
Feng shui is all about living in balance with our environment by creating harmonious spaces to live, work, and play, says Bond. A look at this ancient and evolving Chinese art is just another way to get you thinking about how clients will feel when they first step through your hospital's entrance. Now get to it and start wafting that burning sage.