Four exceptional veterinary receptionists, who are BVRA members and RVR holders, have been chosen as ambassadors to represent the association and be the voice of the profession.
Laura Cutforth, of Gower Veterinary Surgery in South Wales, is one of these ambassadors. We chatted with her to find out more about her and her role within the BVRA.
How long have you been a veterinary receptionist and how did your career in practice begin?
Prior to being a veterinary receptionist, I worked as an estate agent. I realised that I wasn’t doing a job that I loved and decided that I needed to make a change! I enjoy working in a customer-facing role and I love animals so this seemed like a sensible route for me. I rang many vets near to me and finally found one that was looking for a receptionist. I didn’t have any experience in this sort of role, so it wasn’t easy to get the job. I spent two weeks calling them, sharing with them what I thought I could bring to the role and eventually they relented, and I got the job! I started part-time and then worked my way up, eventually being given the responsibility of running a branch practice and becoming supervisor of four branches. I moved from this practice to Gower Vets around six months ago, which has given me new opportunities and insights into the profession.
What aspects of your role do you find most rewarding?
Getting it right is a great reward! Taking a call, assessing the situation, getting the patient booked in with the right level of urgency and guiding the client correctly is the goal, of course. In doing this though, I enjoy enabling my clinical colleagues to perform their roles effectively and achieve resolution for the patient and the owner. The biggest reward in this role for me, though, is achieving a great relationship with the clients.
What challenges do you face frequently and how do you overcome them?
Despite being the most rewarding thing, the biggest challenge is actually building this relationship with, and achieving respect from, the clients. It can be quite challenging to prove your capabilities to the client and gain their trust. The BVRA courses have been so important to me; I learnt things recently that I think I should have known way back at the beginning of my career as a veterinary receptionist and that would have helped me to have more confidence in my own abilities, enabling relationship building with clients.
What inspires and motivates you to be your best at work?
What inspires me is how my work can impact on my colleagues. As a receptionist I can have a big impact on whether their day is workable or out of control. This motivates me to be the best at what I do front of house, to have an awareness and to try to create a manageable day for them. It is underestimated how emotionally draining it is for the vets and nurses to do two euthanasia appointments in a row and then vaccinate a litter of puppies afterwards. I have seen this happen in the past and it inspired me to think, “How can I help make that better, how can I make them have a good day where they are not struggling?” When I achieve this and build a diary that enables them to have a good day and enjoy their work, it motivates me to carry on and be the best that I can be in my role.
You are a BVRA Registered Veterinary Receptionist; what does it mean to you to hold this title and to be able to use the post nominals RVR?
It means a lot to me. I struggle with the term “receptionist” as it doesn’t encompass the true nature of the role. It is a role that comes with a lot of responsibility and the need for a depth of knowledge. To have the title of a “BVRA Registered Veterinary Receptionist” is huge and it is exactly what has been missing for the profession. The role of a veterinary receptionist comes with a lower expectation of skills and a lower pay grade than that of other roles in practice. To be able to apply myself, achieve the BVRA awards and be able to say I am a Registered Veterinary Receptionist means everything. It completes the role. I use my post nominals a lot as it gives me credibility; even if people don’t actually know what they stand for, they recognise their presence and associated recognition that they carry. I feel that clients give me a lot more respect and confidence in my ability when they see my RVR badge and name badge with post nominals.
Would you encourage others in the role to pursue the bronze, silver and gold receptionist courses and become an RVR?
Absolutely, you have to do it! Why would you not want the recognition of your skills? The BVRA is enabling this role to be a credible career choice; there is a pathway now, more opportunities and doors to be opened by going through this process. These awards benefit the whole practice too, raising the standard of care provision as a whole.
How valuable is the support of the BVRA to the profession of veterinary receptionists?
The support from the BVRA is extremely important. Veterinary reception training traditionally happens in-house, on the job. I feel that this is not enough support for the responsibility that the role carries. It is not just about the knowledge you gain from the courses or the support the BVRA staff give, it is the support from the BVRA online community as well. Educating ourselves, sharing knowledge and discussing ideas with each other is invaluable. It is a coming together of like-minded professionals – this is all down to the BVRA; it is wonderful!
What does it mean to you to be a BVRA Ambassador and what does the role involve?
It is a massive honour and one that I take really seriously. It gives me a platform to express my passion for my work and to be part of the future of the role of veterinary receptionists. To be chosen to be one of the driving forces behind this is a fantastic opportunity. I am really proud to be a BVRA Ambassador. I am currently involved in creating ideas and content for training opportunities regarding reception triage. We will be hosting live Facebook chats, contributing to articles and taking an active role in the communication to others on the social platforms.
How would you like to see the role of the veterinary receptionist evolve over the next five years?
I would like for the BVRA receptionist award to be a mandatory training for all people in the role. I would love to see RVRs being recognised as a professional role within veterinary practices by the RCVS, taking responsibility for our own actions and for our pay grade to reflect that status. I would also like to see more veterinary receptionists moving up into management positions.
Describe a typical day as a veterinary receptionist using just three words.
Rollercoaster of emotions! When I first started, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I thought I would be cuddling kittens and puppies and answering the odd phone call! The reality is very different. With the phone ringing, clients at the desk, having your sympathy hat on one minute and your “aww look at the puppy” hat on the next, dealing with an irate client about their bill whilst the vet is asking you to dispense six different medications to the angry cat that he has just seen that caused the waiting Golden Retriever to pee on the waiting room floor – these three words seem the most appropriate!
For further information about the BVRA and their ambassadors, please visit the BVRA website.