The infamous front-office eye roll - Veterinary Economics
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The infamous front-office eye roll
Our clients—Mr. Self-Doctoring, Mrs. Forgot That Detail, and Miss Pulls a Fast One—say the darndest things. I do my best to control what I do next, but ...


It happens every day. It's virtually uncontrollable. Worse yet, it can be contagious to the other team members.

Rachael Hume
I'm talking about the eye roll. That phenomenon of losing your irises somewhere in the middle of your eyebrow. Thankfully, it's normally one eye or the other. If you're unfortunate, like me, it's always the same eye, and I fear that by the time I retire from my job as a veterinary receptionist in 30 years, I will have developed a Cro-Magnon forehead ridge from eyebrow-muscle overuse. Dreadful.

How does this happen, you ask? It can be brought on by lots of things. For example, Mr. Self-Doctoring comes in with a complaint about his dog. Coincidentally, it's the same complaint he came in for a year ago. Back then you prescribed a medication and told Mr. Self-Doctoring to give it twice a day for seven days. Today, you find out he gave the pills for only three days because "the dog seemed fine." But, Mr. Self-Doctoring reports, "it never did clear up." Then he shoots you an accusing glance. Careful?... eye is twitching ...

Next we have Mrs. Forgot That Detail. She tells you she's here for one thing when she checks in, but then tells the doctor something completely different. The doctor questions why the check-in sheet doesn't match her complaint, and she says, "Well, I told that gal out front about that." During checkout, she gives you a baleful glare. Watch it ... eye is rolling ...

And what about Miss Pulls a Fast One? She marks on the form that she'll be paying cash, but when she's finished informs you she'll pay next week for services rendered today. Keep ... eyes ... focused ...

If you've assembled a great team, they can help alleviate your problem. Team members are sensitive to symptoms leading to the eye roll and can warn you of a client's impending actions. This can lessen the severity of the eye roll and even prevent it. But when you're caught unaware by frustrating comments from clients, uncontrollable and severe eye roll is often inevitable.

I've spent many years trying to perfect my poker face at the front desk, because managing this condition is a key to success in the clinic. Thankfully, I've progressed from the spontaneous eye roll, to the wide-eyed stare, to almost no reaction at all—except maybe a smile. Because I know if I can just hold on, as soon as that client leaves I'll be able to unload my pent-up facial energy. Can't?... roll eye ... in front of ... client?...

But then what happens? You tell the story to your veterinary assistant, and her eye rolls up. Egads! Before you know it, the story spreads further, and everyone has the eye roll. It's an epidemic!

But on further examination, I wonder if the eye roll is in fact cathartic. I always feel better after the eye roll because I've expressed myself and can then move on to the next situation. Of course, that new situation might be a little exasperating, too. It may require even more self-control. Hold ... eye ... steady ...

Rachael Hume is a receptionist and office manager at Southway Animal Clinic in Lewiston, Idaho. This column first appeared as a blog on, where Hume is a community member.



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