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InFocus

Celebrating our unsung veterinary reception heroes

The BVRA caught up with last year’s Veterinary Receptionist of the Year to discuss the award and what being a veterinary receptionist means for her and her colleague who nominated her

In March 2020, the British Veterinary Receptionist Association (BVRA) crowned the recipient of their Veterinary Receptionist of the Year award. Sadly, the pandemic meant that this accolade got somewhat overshadowed.

We caught up with the winner, Cris Paterson, and her colleague and friend Jill Crawford, who nominated her, to chat about the award. Cris and Jill work at Orchard House Veterinary Centre in Stocksfield and Hexham.

Cris Paterson

Cris Paterson won the Veterinary Receptionist of the Year award in 2020

What did it mean to you to win the award and would you encourage other receptionists to progress with it if they are nominated?

It was a big surprise: I had no idea that Jill was nominating me and to be honest I was amazed that I won; I felt very unworthy when there are so many other deserving veterinary receptionists. I just do the job that I love! It felt incredibly special as I had just had a big birthday and hearing that I had won this award was the icing on the cake. It was a very worthwhile experience and I would encourage others to go for it if the opportunity presents itself.

What do you enjoy most about being a veterinary receptionist?

I enjoy being part of the practice team. Everyone here is lovely and we all work well together. I love to help people and assisting clients daily gives me great job satisfaction, knowing that I have made a difference. I also enjoy the daily challenges that the role brings and I am constantly learning new things – no two days are the same!

In your role as a veterinary receptionist, what is one of the biggest challenges you face?

Payments and chasing debt. I find that a lot of uncomfortable issues that occur with clients are money related. Overcoming these problems can be challenging but building a rapport and creating a bond with the client can go a long way to finding a resolution. Talking to, listening to and showing understanding to the client helps to create this bond. This has been a challenge in itself over the last 12 months without face-to-face interactions with clients and the need to wear masks.

What piece of advice would you give to someone going into a front-of-house role in veterinary practice?

Be open minded! This role is not all about cute puppies and kittens. Your clients need the practice most often when their pet is ill, when something has gone wrong. Consequently, they will be concerned, worried and can display an array of challenging emotions. You will be required to communicate effectively with them and display empathy, regardless of what kind of day you are having yourself. You need to be available and helpful to the wider practice team. Be prepared for this role to not only be about customer care, but you may also be required to handle animals and assist the vet in consultations. Additionally, do not expect it to be a 9-to-5 job! Pets do not read the opening hours when they become ill!

You are clearly very proficient in your role; do you have any ambitions moving forward?

I want to continue being on the frontline at the practice, doing what I am doing now. A customer care role is where my strengths lie and helping people gives me a great sense of purpose and self-worth.

How important is it for veterinary receptionists to feel valued by the practice and their colleagues?

It is extremely important that receptionists feel valued by the practice. They are the first point of contact that clients have with the practice. They deliver the first, and often the lasting, impression the customers make of the business. Feeling valued and appreciated will enable their sense of self-worth and subsequently positively affect their performance.

Jill Crawford, MRCVS, nominated her colleague for the award

Jill Crawford

In your opinion, as a practising vet, what qualities are most important for the role of a veterinary receptionist?

As well as the obvious skills of good organisation and customer care, a veterinary receptionist should display kindness, empathy and understanding towards clients and team members. They should have the ability to stay calm under pressure, to multitask and to be good humoured when appropriate.

What inspired you to nominate Cris for the award and what makes her stand out in her role?

Cris has all the qualities listed above, and much more. Her customer care skills are exemplary, but she also has a special rapport with all the team members within the practice. She is the practice “Mum” and looks after everyone. She is incredibly sensitive to people’s moods and will make them cups of tea, buy them lunch on busy days and for me personally, produces my favourite Jelly Babies for me when I am having a bad day! All these things inspired me to nominate her for the award. I saw the advertisement in a publication asking readers if they work with an outstanding veterinary receptionist and I thought, well yes, I work with the best receptionist in my opinion, and she needs recognition. Cris has a superpower, a sixth sense about people and situations. She is always able to voice any concerns to vets regarding possible client or patient issues that she may have picked up on in her dealings with them prior to the consult. She is always incredibly switched on and “present”. Cris is an absolute pleasure to work with and makes my job easier by her own commitment and enthusiasm to her own responsibilities.

Would you encourage other colleagues within the industry to nominate their worthy receptionists for the award?

Absolutely. Veterinary receptionists are our unsung heroes. There is nothing glamorous about it and it is a difficult job. It is so easy to take someone who is good at their job for granted. You are so busy doing your own job at times that you do not realise how much they contribute to you doing your job until they are not there! I would urge colleagues to take a step back, look at your receptionists working around you and recognise that they really make a difference to you in your role. Please shout it from the rooftops and nominate them; it means so much.

How important is it for veterinary receptionists to feel valued by the practice and their colleagues?

One thing that frustrates me is when people refer to themselves as “just a receptionist”. Veterinary receptionists are the glue that holds the practice together. Without our receptionists we would struggle immensely. We need our receptionists to recognise their own self-worth and to perform to the best of their ability. Therefore, it is especially important for practices to get behind their receptionists and ensure they feel valued.

The role of a veterinary receptionist has changed dramatically over the past 10 to 15 years. Increased use of IT, practice management systems, increased owner awareness of preventative healthcare, pet insurance and new ways of working have all increased the workload and responsibilities for the veterinary receptionist. I would like people within the industry and the general public to recognise the role of a veterinary receptionist as a career path, not “just a reception job”; it is so much more. Awards such as this one from the BVRA will help to achieve this and raise the profile of the role.

The BVRA seeks to promote the status of veterinary receptionists within the profession and in the public, to enable career progression through training and certification and to set the standards for the role through accreditation.
Nominations for BVRA’s Veterinary Receptionist of the Year award 2021 are now open; please visit www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/VROTY to nominate your unsung hero. Nominations are welcomed from both clients and veterinary colleagues and should highlight the dedication and effort the nominee demonstrates. Three finalists will be chosen and invited to attend BVRA’s annual congress in October 2021, where the winner will be announced at an exciting awards ceremony during the congress dinner on Friday night.

Lynsey Sadiwskyj

BUSINESS SUPPORT MANAGER at BVRA

Lynsey Sadiwskyj, VN, started her career as a veterinary receptionist before moving into veterinary nursing. She spent seven years as a territory manager in industry, before working as a practice manager. Lynsey is the Business Support Manager for the BVRA and Colourful CPD.


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