An important thing that many of us consider when choosing and applying for a new job is the progression opportunities that could possibly come with it. When I applied for my first veterinary receptionist job, the only progression opportunity that seemed obvious was to try for a career in veterinary nursing. I was very naïve in thinking the receptionist role wouldn’t be too challenging to learn because I had previous experience in customer service – during my interview for the job, I discovered that this couldn’t be further from the truth. The skillset required for the forever-evolving role is vast, which made me quickly realise that it could provide valuable experience for lots of different job roles.
After working as a small animal veterinary receptionist at Drove Vets for a short time, I’d already experienced so many different situations and had hundreds of “first times”. Through this, I quickly saw the potential to grow in my role and develop my career as a veterinary receptionist (Box 1).
Because of the responsibilities veterinary receptionists have, particularly in smaller teams, we are often carrying out the tasks usually completed by key holders, stock controllers, insurance claim handlers, debt managers, animal nursing assistants, kennel assistants, fire marshals, cleaners, diary managers, operation coordinators, social media managers and more.
With all this in mind, progression opportunities are plentiful when we realise what the veterinary receptionist role can prepare you to achieve and how you can achieve it.
Continued professional development for veterinary receptionists
Continued professional development (CPD) and further training are invaluable and can better the skills you have already built. It can be a key part of your career progression journey.
|· Kennel assistant/ANA
· Veterinary nursing
· Head receptionist/team lead
· Client care management
· Practice management
· SQP holder/stock controller
· Accounts management
· Customer service specialist
· Marketing management
· Pharmaceutical representative
· Regional management
· Pet bereavement support
· And more!
Find your passion and make it your focus, whether it is leadership, admin or specialising in a certain area. Research what training resources are available and show them to your line managers at “one-to-ones” or catch-up meetings, explaining how it would benefit you and the practice as well. When looking into the available options, make sure you consider your learning style as CPD can be delivered in-person, verbally or virtually, at veterinary congresses and at “lunch and learns”.
There are many different support groups online where you can speak to like-minded professionals, but be careful when selecting a group to join and never share your personal details. You could also suggest to management about shadowing team members who are in your desired or similar roles, even if it’s unpaid and on a voluntary basis.
Sometimes we must make small sacrifices to progress – it shows dedication and willingness. It’s important to remember to take all the learning opportunities offered to you – all learning is good learning, and even the small wins are still wins.
Sometimes we must make small sacrifices to progress […] all learning is good learning, and even the small wins are still wins
How can my practice support me, and how can I be supportive as a team leader?
British Veterinary Receptionist Association membership
Being a British Veterinary Receptionist Association (BVRA) member gives you access to different informative and engaging courses with varied topics to educate you and your colleagues on the different areas you could specialise in. You also have access to the BVRA member’s Facebook group, which provides support from other veterinary receptionists.
If you are a head receptionist or team leader, make sure you organise regular catch-ups with each of your team members to give an equal opportunity to those who wish to discuss progression or further learning opportunities. With the unpredictability in practice, it’s easy for these meetings to get delayed or forgotten, but consistency is the key to helping your team feel valued. Team members who don’t want to complete CPD or develop a skill may be unaware of what’s available or unsure where to start, so make sure you are clear when discussing learning and progression options.
It’s important to carry out the promise you make to each team member in a swift manner, where possible, and check any progress made at future one-to-one meetings.
If you are a receptionist and don’t receive these informal meetings with your line manager or head receptionist, raise it with management and ask if you can organise them!
Educate your team and make good use of team meetings. If you hold regular “lunch and learns” with your team, you can easily inspire your receptionists and add value to your practice. You can invite team members from other departments in your practice to provide free CPD for the team.
Representatives from external companies/charities often reach out to book ‘lunch and learns’ for the clinical teams, so ask if there are training courses they can provide for the reception team as well
Representatives from external companies/charities often reach out to book “lunch and learns” for the clinical teams, so ask if there are training courses they can provide for the reception team as well. These sessions not only provide free education for veterinary receptionists but aid in team building between the reception team and other departments.
Ask your team for CPD topic suggestions and put a plan in place!
Awareness and support
If a team member has communicated that they would like to progress in a certain field or develop a skill, it is crucial to provide the support they need. Make sure your team is aware of any CPD allowances they have as a part of their contract and that they know how to properly record the CPD they complete. This can help to ensure that CPD is being used by your team. Discuss whether there are time barriers to completing CPD and if you need to develop an in-practice plan.
As a veterinary receptionist, it is important to be aware of any allowances you have, as further education can play a crucial part in career progression. So if you are unsure, speak to your line manager. When given CPD or further training to complete, have the confidence to communicate about any support you may need from your line manager or practice. If you would like to develop a skill or progress in a particular area but are worried that time is a barrier, speak to your line manager to see if any time allowances can be put in place.
To summarise, the role of a veterinary receptionist is so versatile that there are many chances to learn and develop new skills. If there is a subject you are particularly good at or interested in, see what resources are available to you and communicate any support you need with your line manager. It is so easy not to speak up, but sometimes all it takes is a conversation. Work hard, be adaptive and don’t give up!
If there is a subject you are particularly good at or interested in, see what resources are available to you and communicate any support you need with your line manager […] sometimes all it takes is a conversation