Welcoming. Relaxing. Stress-free. These aren’t usually the first words that come to mind when you think of emergency veterinary care. However, the team at Charlotte Animal Referral & Emergency (CARE) in Charlotte, North Carolina, was up to the challenge of rewriting the emergency clinic experience. And we’d say they succeeded, considering they took home a Merit Award in the 2017 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition.
“Visiting the ER or veterinary specialist can make people very nervous, and we wanted to take every opportunity to reduce their stress,” says one hospital co-owner Peggy Sayer, DVM, DACVIM (cardiology).
From the natural lighting to a hotel-like lobby to the alcove cat- and dog-friendly reception areas, find out how they renovated their space into a brand new, stress-free environment for clients, staff and, most importantly, pets.
Welcome clients naturally
When the CARE team purchased their 23,214-square-foot building in an office park, they wanted to renovate approximately 12,000 square feet and leave 11,000 for expansion, along the way creating a warm environment while providing state-of-the-art veterinary care. This is why the lobby area is a wide open space with an abundance of light and natural elements.
“Use of natural materials such as marble, stone, wood and glass along with earth-tone colors create a relaxing environment,” the team writes in their entry notebook.
And don’t forget the snacks! The waiting room is complete with comfortable armchair seating, large-screen TVs, complimentary WiFi and refreshments.
“Concessions are a variety of soda, coffee, tea and chips—you’d be shocked how happy a bag of SunChips can make someone,” says Dr. Sayer.
2. Make staff members happy
Operating a 24/7 veterinary hospital means going the extra mile for team members as well.
“The working section of the hospital was designed to preserve the atmosphere established in the lobby area and exam rooms with a goal of making CARE a setting where it’s enjoyable to work,” the team writes in their entry.
Team perks include a “sleeping room,” complete with a bed and a recliner, designed as a quiet space for doctors to snag a few moments of rest. However, Chief Operating Officer Jack Henderson says the clinic is usually so busy that the room is used more as a private space for nursing mothers.
“There’s also a break room with a full kitchen so employees can prepare meals,” Henderson says.
3. Design with pets in mind.
And last, but certainly not least, one of the hospital’s major goals in the design process was to offer top-notch patient care. This is why they built an in-house computed tomography scanner and installed a mobile magnetic resonance imaging trailer that remains on site.
“CARE is one of only two animal hospitals in the region with these capabilities,” the team says.
In addition, the feline ward was designed to keep cats calm with extra thick walls (to minimize noise) and an outdoor view of bird feeders. The lobby also has separate waiting alcoves for dogs and cats.
“Realizing that any vet visit is stressful for the animal, our goal in separating species was to minimize that stress,” Henderson says.