Last week I was working harder than normal because my two associate veterinarians were away at a summer conference. For part of the week, I was the only doctor working at my very busy hospital. It can be fun to be the only doctor on one hand because I have the entire support team at my disposal. The down side to this arrangement is that I am responsible for everything – every pet and client that comes through the door. It can be overwhelming especially when clients don’t behave as expected.

Thank goodness for my veterinary receptionist team, defending the front of the house.

Veterinary receptionists are terrific at handling everything important from the initial client contact by phone, to the collecting of charges, to the “Have a nice day” goodbye. They handle very important things, which I sometimes forget, as I am frantically moving from exam room to exam room. They are rock stars as they deal with a steady stream of clients and pets. They handle phone shoppers, appointment scheduling, price quotes, prescription and food pick up, client concerns, dogs barking and even the occasional “accident” on the reception room floor. They handle our regular cast of client characters, with style and grace.

I saw a great example of this Tuesday. Early in the day I was scheduled to see a woman and her teenage daughter with the daughter’s little pet bird. The mother was obviously unhappy from the minute she walked in the door about having to spend money on an inexpensive pet. The mother scowled as the technician escorted her into the exam room. She sat with her arms crossed, glaring and grunted while her daughter talked with me about the pet bird. She didn’t say much of anything except when I suggested that surgery may be needed. “We are NOT going to pay for surgery on a nineteen-dollar bird,” she said. I told her that I understood and I would do my best to treat the pet with medication, which I sent home.

Once she was back at the front desk the woman exploded at my receptionist. She berated the receptionist, who had nothing to do with the charges, and threatened that she was going to leave a bad review for us on Yelp because of her outrageous bill. My receptionist kept calm and cool explaining the services rendered. She was kind, warm and patient. She may not have won over this particular client but she did impress the observers.

The very next client was a couple who had seen the interaction between the receptionist and the woman. They came to me impressed and in awe that my receptionist had stayed calm in the face of the rudeness. I told them that it was all in a day’s work for these rock stars of my front desk. It is something they deal with infrequently, but also far too often. They take the brunt of most of the problems that occur in any business. They are client service professionals of the highest caliber.

So, remember to love your veterinary receptionists. Pay attention to their needs. They are so important to the success of the veterinary team. I would argue that they are key to your success. They are the people that guard you from the cruel world that waits outside your veterinary hospital doors.

I would like to honor Joanna, Adrian, Erika, Jace, Miranda and my manager Kathy for the terrific job they do every day to keep the problems in the front from affecting the doctors in the back.

We appreciate and love you every day.

If you have a receptionist that you love please leave a comment here so they will feel your support.

– Dr. Julie Cappel

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial team.


Dr. Cappel works as a small animal and exotic pet veterinarian, leadership
and life coach. She has been a practice owner for over 20 years running a
four doctor veterinary practice in Warren, Michigan.  Dr. Cappel has studied
leadership, employee relations, personality profiling, business management
and has a strong grasp on interpersonal relationships and work life balance.  She has served on multiple veterinary committees, school boards and was an executive committee member for the Southeastern Michigan Veterinary Medical Association serving as their president in 2006.  She has also served on the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association executive board serving as their president in 2015, and continues to work as an advisor for the MVMA “A team” and on several committees.