The worst job in the veterinary hospital

The worst job in the veterinary hospital

On bad days, everybody's got it tough, but I say receptionists' duties take the prize.
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Jan 01, 2012

Here's a question for you: What is the one position in a veterinary hospital you would dread most of all?


Dr. Andrew Rollo
Is it kennel attendant? I doubt it—picking up stool is as mundane as picking up a penny on the sidewalk. And I wish I had time to walk dogs in my busy day.

What about technician? They have to deal with push and pull from the doctors, but their clinical and communication skills are used more and more by doctors to connect with clients as well as the pets that brought the technicians to the profession in the first place.

For me, the one position that would send shivers down my spine if I was asked to fill in tomorrow would be receptionist.

GIVING SMILES ON DEMAND

No matter how bad the day is, receptionists must smile for every client who walks in the front door. They make sure the coffee is hot and the water is cold. They keep the floors vacuumed and make sure "presents" dropped in the waiting area are picked up almost before they hit the floor. They make sure invoices are correct and smile at the sarcastic comments clients make when they pay the bill. (If a receptionist got a dime for every time a client said, "A wing of this practice should be named after me for all the money I spend here" after paying a $68 bill, they'd have some heavy pockets.) They console grieving clients and walk them out the door. They deliver the bad news to doctors that they're behind schedule by a half-hour and then get asked, "How did we get so behind?'

TAKING COMPLAINTS FOR WHAT THEY DIDN'T DO

Last but not least, the front-desk team has to answer the phone—all day long. When several lines ring at once, receptionists might as well be jugglers at the circus.

Some are easy calls, but many are complicated medical questions or angry tirades about something the receptionist had nothing to do with and doesn't have the authority to fix. By the time the doctor takes an angry call, clients are less hostile because they've vented for so long. Many times a receptionist will let me know that Mrs. Smith needs to talk to me right away and to be careful because she's upset. When I pick up, I'm greeted with a surprisingly pleasant Mrs. Smith: "Well, hello, Dr. Rollo. I really appreciate your taking my call."

WORKING WITHOUT A HIDING PLACE

Receptionists are on the front lines—there's no place to hide behind the reception desk. They have to smile and take on anyone who comes in—a difficult client, a needy sales rep, a good Samaritan who found an injured squirrel, or a job applicant who just won't leave. Theirs are the first faces clients see when they enter the hospital and the last when they leave. They take on the anger, the sorrow, and the sarcasm, and they are occasionally rewarded by the joy.

So next time you find yourself upset by a receptionist for not scheduling appropriately or for missing a mistake on an invoice, think about her day. Think about what she has to deal with. And appreciate all that she does to help make your hospital function.

Dr. Andrew Rollo is a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and an associate at Madison Veterinary Hospital in Michigan. Send questions or comments to
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