The first question podiatrists ask after they decide to add cosmetic services to their practice is “How do I set up a room?” Some believe it will be quite an undertaking. Others think it will be a breeze and can be done in one day. Either may be true, according to their vision of the concept, but they should know that these rooms are different than traditional podiatry treatment rooms. They should also know the overall setup and appearance contributes to the success of the cosmetic services part of their practice.
When physicians began hiring aestheticians to add cosmetic level treatments to their practices, they did not know how to set up a room for these services. As a consultant, I asked them the following question: Do you want the patient to feel like she is getting a medical treatment or a spa treatment? Indeed, podiatrists need to answer this question before setting up the room as it will dictate the room furnishings and how the patient will feel when entering the room.
The size of the room you choose for these services is important. Generally, if you offer manicures and artificial nail services along with the medical pedicures, you will need the largest room in the practice because a manicuring station will also be in the room.
When it comes to a basic cosmetic care room without hand care, the room should have a counter, sink, additional counter space and a few cabinets. Sound familiar? Your treatment rooms are ideal for these services just as they are for podiatric treatments. The décor starts from here, according to medical or spa room orientation, and the need for medical use during the days the technician is not in the office.
Ideally, the room used for cosmetic nail treatments should be the one closest to the front desk and waiting room so the cosmetic patients are not routinely mixed in with your medical patients and are not walking past the medical rooms. However, any change in treatment rooms should not cause dramatic changes in the office.
Most practices will start with the traditional podiatric chair in a room with décor that enables it to be a medical room until the cosmetic part of the practice generates enough revenue to support an investment in a spa-type chair.
The truly spa-oriented room cannot be in use for medical treatments the days the nail technician is not in the office as there will not be a podiatry chair in the room. The exception is if the room has a breakaway-type treatment chair that can allow use of a whirlpool in front of the patient. These chairs allow one to move the foot area aside to allow the traditional foot soaking tub or basin that spa clients are accustomed to during pedicures.
If and when you choose to go with a spa with a separate room, patients appreciate the throne-type pedicure chairs with whirlpools. However, one must choose these chairs carefully for many reasons, including protecting patients from infection. Many practices that have a dedicated room will start out with a non-whirlpool chair and a high-end footbath that is available to the cosmetic nail care industry. The chair may be a lounger that heats and vibrates with the feet rising for treatment by the pedicurist. One must use a footbath with disposable liners or one that can otherwise be effectively disinfected between patients.
In addition to buying a suitable chair, one will need to choose the appropriate furnishings, equipment and products. Many offices leave this to the newly hired nail technician but one must establish parameters upfront.
For example, all equipment must be justified from a cost perspective. The products must be podiatric products and not those from the beauty industry. Podiatry level products will contain ingredients, such as urea, which are important to good foot care, in higher percentages. You also do not want the patients going to salons and drugstores for their foot care products or they may be tempted to go there for their treatments.
The design of a dedicated cosmetic care room will be very different than a podiatry treatment room. With a dedicated cosmetic care room, one should aim for light, softer colors on the walls as opposed to the bright, hard color of a medical office. Also, instead of bright overhead lighting, one should incorporate the use of dimmers or softer alternative lighting.
Aside from the patient chair, the furniture must have some softening. For example, a comfortable chair for patients for when they are drying their polish after a pedicure cannot be the stiff waiting room chair that is usually sitting in a treatment room. The appearance of this chair can dramatically soften the room but it must be versatile for when the room is in purely medical use. This is an important design choice.
The patient towels used for cosmetic treatments should have more calming colors than the stark white used in medical treatment rooms but still must be capable of being appropriately disinfected during laundry. One can add other softening touches such as pictures that are appropriate and acceptable for both men and women, and both medical and cosmetic patients.
There should be no charts on the walls and no treatment brochures on the counters. Store them for convenient retrieval.
The treatment whirlpool bath is usually present if the room is used for both cosmetic and medical purposes, and treatment adjustments are available to make the cosmetic patient as comfortable as possible.
The spa-oriented cosmetic treatment room that is also used as a treatment room is more difficult to design to comfortably support relaxation and pampering. Aside from aforementioned soft lighting and soft paint on the walls, the room should include a comfortable chair and accessory choices that can add spa orientation to the room. Furnishings in the room should also project a more relaxing ambiance.
In this spa room, the technician should be able to perform more spa-type pedicures such as a relaxation aromatherapy pedicure, a scrub pedicure, a callus control pedicure, a hydration pedicure and a soakless pedicure.
Setting up and stocking this room does not have to break your bank if you begin with just the basics and then expand your cosmetic care services later. The cost of setup for most rooms is $4,000 to $5,000 plus the optional throne-style chair. If you choose to have a whirlpool chair, it must be high quality, have an excellent warranty and the company must have an excellent reputation. Many spas did not and suffered the consequences. A good whirlpool chair will be $4,000 to $6,000 and quality counts with these chairs.
These are just a few key considerations in designing a specific room for cosmetic care or a room that could conceivably double as a cosmetic care room and treatment room until the cosmetic care part of your practice is more established. Obviously, there are other factors that one needs to address in order to establish cosmetic care as part of your practice but the first steps of designing the cosmetic care room are important. Customize to your office needs and then move on to the next steps in the new venture.
Janet McCormick, MS, has consulted for spas and physicians in making changes in their offices to support cosmetic services. She now is available to consult for podiatric practices that wish to add cosmetic services and is a partner in www.medinails.com  and www.prostheticnails.com . She can be reached at (863) 635-1224 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.