A Day in the Life of a Veterinary Receptionist

Have you ever wondered what it is like to work in a Vet Hospital?  Well, I would like to share with you my typical day at Mclean Animal Hosptial as a receptionist.  The first thing I do, once I have opened the clinic at 7:30am, is check our voicemail.  Often there are messages left overnight to book an appointment for today.  As I return these calls, I now start to multi task as surgery patients are being dropped off and calls are coming in.

It is important with each surgery patient admit that I confirm they have been fasted for at least 12 hours.  There are increased safety risks to being under anesthetic if the pets belly happens to be full.  We do not want them to vomit any food when they are under for surgery, especially with an endotracheal tube in place.  The next step for each surgery patient is to get their accurate weight and to have the owner sign their admit/estimate form for surgery.  We weigh all our pets in kilograms, ever wonder why?  All the medical calculations for pets are based on kilograms, so it is incredibly important that the weight our veterinarian receives is in kilos.  Now I pass on our surgery patient to our experienced RVT to start their work for preparing this patient for surgery.

Now the morning appointments are coming in and of course the phone is ringing too.  We have a rule at Mclean Animal Hospital for managing our phones.  It’s called the 3/60 Rule.  This means, picking up the phone by the 3rd ring and never leaving the client on hold for more than 60 seconds.  Sometimes, it will take longer than 60 seconds to finish with what may be holding me up. In that case, I will check in with the client and make sure they are okay to continue holding.  It’s very important if I am busy, that I ask the client if they have an emergency and they are okay to hold before placing them on hold.  My job is to give all my attention to the client directly in front of me.  Then I can help the client on the phone with as little distraction as possible.  I like our clients to know that they are very important, that I am listening, and that I am here to help.

Between the morning appointments coming in, and the calls coming in, we will likely have clients walk in too.  These clients are often to pick up food or medications we have set aside.  Sometimes (like today as I write this), we will have a new client walk in with many questions as they just acquired a new pet, how exciting!  I will take the time needed to help each client in order.  I always make sure if I’m tied up at front that at least the doctor and/or the tech know their appointment is here so they will be taken care of.  That leaves me with the clients to cash out or the clients with questions, no problem!

I love working reception at a veterinary hospital as I am always learning.  Here are just some of the calls/questions I have had this morning.  A cat that has not pooped for 3 days and is now not interested in food, a dog that seems to be shaking her head, a new owner of 2 adopted cats, a 7 year old cat that is hiding and now not eating, a dog who has a smelly behind and is licking his bum, and an owner who’s dog just ran from the backyard and he needs the microchip information.  Every call often brings a very different situation.  Each of these calls I explain what is best for the pet and book an appointment accordingly if necessary.  Reception is the first impression of a clinic and often the filter for calls and concerns.  It is important that I know how best to help this client, and ask someone (either a Doctor or a Tech) if I don’t.  I love working at Mclean Animal Hospital as all the staff work in the pets best interest and are always open to answering my questions right away.

As I sit at reception, I like to know what to expect (when possible) and to keep the clients in front of me updated.  I look over all the appointments already booked for the day.  Who is coming in and what are they coming in for?  Are we following up on something or is this new?  I like to greet each client with as much knowledge as possible as this is very important to both client and patient care.  For clients that may be waiting to be seen, what can I offer them as a receptionist?  I can certainly look into what’s happening before them and update them on an expectation of when they will be seen.  We know, at Mclean Animal Hospital, it can be stressful both on the owner and the pet to come to the Vet.  I like to ease this anxiety as much as possible. One way to do so, is keep the owner informed as to when the Doctor will be ready.  Just as important to the checking in of each appointment, is the checking out!  I like to ask each owner, how was your appointment?  Do you have any questions?  It may be the owner was given a great deal of information to process by the Vet.  It is my job to make sure no one leaves Mclean Animal Hospital uncertain or confused.  In addition, I will advise each client at check out, when they can expect to hear from us again and why.  Follow up is incredibly important with patient care.

When I say I am learning all the time, there is no end to the education I receive as a Veterinary Receptionist.  I must know what is considered an emergency, what can wait to be seen, what are the side effects of a medication, what is our vaccine protocol, what are these vaccines for, who needs flea prevention, what will this blood test or urine test tell the owner, what is diabetes, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, cushions disease, renal disease, how do we treat, how do we diagnose?  It is amazing the challenges of this job and how much information I absorb on a daily basis.  The more I know (which means sometimes, the more I ask our Vet or Tech), the more I can help the client in front of me.

At times of course, my job is not only to help the client, but also my fellow staff that need me to complete a task.  This may be sending a report to a specialist, calling a client to follow up, getting a medication ready, calling another clinic for patient history, or going over a treatment plan with an owner.  As much as I can help the Team around me at Mclean Animal Hospital, the better the patient and client care will be.

Last, but certainly not least, is the constant interaction I experience with both animals and their owners.  As a Veterinary Receptionist, I get to greet both people and pets all day, which I love.  This can be a mixture of emotions of course as we see pets for a variety reasons.  Some are very happy times, like a new adoption or puppy!  Others may be more difficult times such as an unwell pet that is not improving.  It’s important that I enjoy both people and animals to be good at my job.  Each owner loves their pet dearly and rely on our guidance and support to help their animal.  I have been through a lot with my own pets over the years, which helps me empathize with all clients needs.  I have experienced emergency visits, restricted prescription diets, tumour removal surgery, broken leg surgery, and many dentistry’s, just to name a few!  Prior to working in a Veterinary Hospital, I remember how much I didn’t know about my pets health and how much I entrusted my Vet.  My heart goes out to every pet parent dealing with any type of illness or injury.  Please know, I am only a phone call away, and would love to help you as best as I can.  I love this job and feel honoured every day that clients choose Mclean Animal Hospital.  To me, a day in the life of a Veterinary Receptionist is the best of both worlds, as you get to help both people and animals.

by Allison Burgess