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Why personal presentation matters in your veterinary practice

Posted in Management @ Oct 27th 2016 - By Judy Gillespie, Vetanswers
Why Your Team Members Personal Presentation Matters In Your Veterinary Practice 2

No matter what your job is within a veterinary clinic, the most important thing is your level of skill – right?

Well yes as far as the health and wellbeing of your patient is concerned. The only problem with this argument is that on most occasions your patient comes with a human attached.  And unless you’ve trained your patients to visit you by themselves, perhaps carrying a note listing symptoms, requesting a wellness check or vaccinations along with credit card details you're going to have to impress the human.

In general, clients are not experts in veterinary medicine (despite what they’ve learned on Dr Google!) and so may find it difficult to judge your level of expertise in this area. Instead they will tend to focus on what’s more visible including your personal presentation and communication skills. This of course can change over time but first impressions count and if you don’t make that impression count enough, there may not be a next time.

Many clients will have the perception that someone who looks professional must know what they’re talking about and this is especially true for new clients or those you see infrequently. They may perceive that casual attire and sloppy presentation implies a casual attitude whereas professional appearance is more likely to inspire trust.

The fact is that if your clients don’t take you seriously it may diminish your ability to help your patients.

So what does ‘looking professional’ really mean?

Well to a degree that depends on who you ask.

A practice owner will probably have a very clear picture of what your practice brand is and what style of uniform and general presentation supports that brand. In turn your practice brand should be designed to be attractive to your target clients and clearly ‘target clients’ will vary from practice to practice. This is why there is no one ‘right’ standard of presentation for everyone in the veterinary industry.

For example, if your target clients are older pet owners with quite traditional views they may not be comfortable with a casual uniform, obvious tattoos, bright hair colour and piercings. However, if your clients generally hold more alternative views they may think that the bolder and brighter the better and prefer professionals with a more relaxed style.

What and how you wear your uniform are both important

Although there may not be one perfect veterinary team uniform there are some common standards that everyone should meet. A practice owner can supply a uniform but it’s up to individual team members to take responsibility for how they wear the uniform and their personal presentation.

No matter where you work, who your clients are or what your position – these standards should be the same:

  • All clothing should be clean, ironed and not faded, torn or showing signs of wear – whether they’re scrubs or a business shirt.
  • Hair should be clean and styled accordingly – if your clients love your blue Mohawk then it should be an awesome Mohawk.
  • Everyone’s nails should be clean and tidy even if they are rainbow coloured.
  • Footwear should be clean and appropriate to the rest of your uniform.
  • And everyone should start work showered and tidy (you may end work in a different state but it’s how you start that matters!)

What standards can be set?

Employers do have the right to set general standards regarding dress and appearance as long as it is seen to be ‘reasonable’ according to industry standards and there are also obviously some dress requirements to meet health and safety obligations. Although things do seem to be changing as to what is deemed acceptable or not. Tattoos and piercings are a good example. It is now far more acceptable for males to have their ears pierced and tattoos have certainly become more mainstream.

Whatever standard of dress is required in your veterinary practice there are a few important areas to consider. Firstly, there should be a written policy regarding expectations with guidelines as to what is and isn’t acceptable including basic grooming requirements e.g. employees need to be showered, uniform ironed, etc. These expectations should be made clear from the very beginning and discussed during the recruitment stage of employment.

Finally, dress standards should not be discriminatory, must be applied equally across all employees and if necessary, exceptions made for for religious reasons, disability or physical requirements.

There’s nothing wrong with being different

I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone should be dressed in the same plain scrubs or boring corporate dress either. One of the things we all love about the veterinary industry is that it’s full of individuals with different ideas and different passions and your clients may choose your practice because you’re different. 

But at the end of the day, you are a veterinary professional, working with clients in a well-equipped veterinary practice and delivering a professional level of veterinary care. Your personal presentation should always be a reflection of this level of professionalism. 

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