Veterinary disrespect: Overcoming the "just a receptionist" rap

Remove the obstacles that prevent you from being considered part of your practice's healthcare team.
Sep 01, 2010

Does your veterinary practice consistently recognize that you and your fellow front office employees are part of the healthcare team? Or are you considered "just" a receptionist? If the answer to the first question is a resounding (and disappointing) no, there are several reasons why that may be the case. Among them: your lack of medical training, a lack of respect from the other members of the healthcare team, and even your own lack of self-respect.

Removing these obstacles is key to changing the second-class status for receptionists that exists in many practices. The good news: Getting rid of just one of these obstacles simultaneously helps to remove the others. If your front office team gets medical training, for example, you'll gain more respect from the veterinarians and technicians on your team, which in turn will strengthen your own self-respect. So how do you get started knocking down the barriers that prevent you from being considered an essential part of the healthcare team? Begin with medical training.

Building medical skills

Receptionists should know medical terminology, common medications, common laboratory tests, and the most commonly performed surgeries or procedures in that practice. To begin building your own knowledge, identify the top 10 to 20 items in each category. If you're not sure about the top items, ask your practice manager, a veterinary technician, or a doctor for help. Then focus on learning the correct spelling, pronunciation, and meaning of the words and phrases included on the list of important medical terms. For training on medications, study the brand name and corresponding generic name, the basic use of the drug, and the most common side effects. For laboratory tests, learn the more familiar acronym as well as the full name, the basic use of the test, and the sample (blood, feces, or urine) required to perform the test.

Regardless of whether you're tackling this learning individually or as a team, it's important to share your resources. Keep the materials you develop for this training in a central location at the front desk for future reference in training new hires and to refresh your own memory. Consider laminating quick tip sheets and placing them at each reception station for quick reference.

This extra effort will help get the entire front office staff trained on medical aspects, which will improve the overall reputation of the practice. How? Clients will receive a consistent message when every member of the team uses the same terminology and pronunciation. This will lead clients to view the front office staff as knowledgeable members of the healthcare team. Well-trained receptionists also will bolster the practice's standing when calls come in from neighboring veterinary practices, when pets come in via a referral, or when pets are being referred onward from your practice. Being able to "speak the lingo" with other veterinary professionals shows that your whole team knows its stuff. It's important to remember that all communication flows through the front office, so receptionists represent the practice to more people on a daily basis than any other team member.