Imagine walking into an animal hospital without someone at the front desk to greet you. The sound of phones ringing without someone to answer them. The waiting room full of clients wondering if they are in the right place. Pets running around using the lobby floor as their own personal toilet. Tempers flaring because there is no one to refill medications that the client ran out of yesterday. Clients screaming at each other because their familiar front desk person that they normally would vent to is nowhere to be seen.
The chaos of not having someone at the front desk to manage the hospital flow is unthinkable. So why do many that work at the front desk feel that do not receive the appreciation that they deserve? Because we as a profession don’t do enough to tell them how awesome they really are and how the hospital would fall apart without them. It’s time that we change how we treat and appreciate anyone that works at the front desk.
My first job right after graduating from the veterinary technology program at SPC was as a front desk receptionist for a Specialty and Emergency hospital. I had graduated from the program but missed the deadline to sign up for the VTNE. Back in the day, you only had two opportunities to sit for the exam which was in January or June on the 3rd Saturday of the month.
I had to wait until January but didn’t want to lose the knowledge I had just spent two years of learning. I applied for a front desk position and became gainfully employed at the front desk. It’s not as a technician but felt this would encourage me to build better relationships with clients.
We had had ten specialists, five ER doctors and 50+ support staff. There were ten phone lines and eight exam rooms. It was very overwhelming at first to be trained on how the front desk worked and how to prioritize the daily tasks. What to say when you answer the phone. How to greet a client and their pet. How to enter a client’s information into the system. How to process a payment. How to call a client and take them into an exam room. What paperwork needs to go into each file depending on the doctor being seen. Which doctor would see walk-ins. Who would pick up a call and who always wanted a message taken. The list goes on and on.
What I didn’t anticipate or was trained to handle is the client emotions that go along with their sick or dying pet. I was yelled at, hung up on daily, accused of being insensitive and a money hungry bitch, had poop thrown at me across the counter, spit on and dealt with too many multiple personalities to count.
I also had clients thank me for my time after yelling at me, make homemade gifts for my cats, embrace me for a hug when I presented them the form for euthanasia and bring me my favorite cookies for getting their medications filled stat!
Life at the front desk is an emotional roller coaster with so many highs and lows that it’s hard to explain unless you’ve been in our shoes. The job title is front desk but the description should include experience as a:
- First responder
- Financial advisor
- Discharge technician
- Sales Associate
The front desk staff, in my opinion, are the most important and under-appreciated team in any business. The client experience truly falls on their shoulders as the first and last impression. My experience made me a better veterinary technician period. Without that experience, I may have treated or communicated with clients differently instead of with compassion and empathy.
I wish I could declare a national week dedicated to those who put their heart and soul into working a front desk position. Until then, know that there are many of us that appreciate all that you do and couldn’t do it without you. You do matter and are a huge part of the success of our profession. This technician wants to thank you for going above and beyond your job description and promise that I see you for what you truly are…. a hero!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tosha has been a CVT since 2002 working in emergency, internal medicine and neurology. She has a passion for mentoring technicians to create a more positive work environment. When Tosha is not interviewing prospective candidates for Veterinary Practice Partners and their hospitals, you may find her dancing at a country music concert or relaxing at home in her hammock with Jagger and Dirty.