The veterinary receptionist’s role in animal healthcare - Veterinary Practice
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The veterinary receptionist’s role in animal healthcare

From healthcare plans and dentistry to parasites, behaviour and teletriage, the role of the veterinary receptionist is broad and varied and requires large amounts of specialist knowledge

The veterinary receptionist role is one of the most misinterpreted roles in veterinary practice. Although the role does not require years of learning and training at colleges or universities, it requires varied skills and vast knowledge, most of which is learned while working in busy practice.

I remember having just six weeks of “on the job” training before my first shift at one of our branches, setting up for the day and being the only receptionist. Within the first hour of trying to juggle a busy reception desk and waiting area while answering all the calls, tending to our morning stock delivery, restraining animals for the vet and assisting with a euthanasia, I quickly realised the title “receptionist” meant so much more in the veterinary industry.

The veterinary receptionist’s role is vital to ensure the diary runs well and clients’ expectations are managed. Due to our varied skill set, we can help other roles in practice with certain tasks and better understand some of the responsibilities of our clinical team members. Our experiences in practice also help us to communicate better with clients and manage expectations where needed. Having veterinary receptionists who can answer clients’ general queries allows the clinical team members to maximise their time in practice and focus on their patients and cases.

Having veterinary receptionists who can answer clients’ general queries allows the clinical team members to maximise their time in practice and focus on their patients and cases

Other areas that veterinary receptionists assist in can be things from the practice’s healthcare plan to nutrition and parasitology. But how do receptionists get involved with animal healthcare?

Healthcare plans

One of the ways that receptionists can get involved with animal healthcare is by promoting, explaining and advocating their practice’s healthcare plan. A healthcare plan helps the client by spreading the cost of preventative treatments throughout a certain period of time.

A receptionist needs to have a level of knowledge surrounding preventative care to support the client and their pets’ needs. It is important that they clearly advise the client of what is on offer to them and provide visual aids where possible to allow the client time to think once they are seated in the waiting area or have left the practice.

Receptionists also educate clients on the importance of animal vaccinations, microchipping, parasite control and regular check-ups without giving clinical advice or having clinical training.


Another way in which receptionists are involved in animal healthcare is by having knowledge of and educating clients about parasites and their treatments.

Most of the parasite treatments stocked in veterinary practices are prescription-only medications (POM-V or POM-VPS). This means that unless that patient has had a certain parasite treatment prescribed by a vet in the last 12 months, and they have clearly authorised them to have more on their clinical notes, receptionists are not able to dispense it. Even with these boundaries, receptionists must still be aware of which treatments the practice recommends, what parasites those treatments protect against, how frequently they are administered, if they are safe to be given during pregnancy and more.

Receptionists must also have an understanding of the life cycle of a flea as well as some of the worms seen in our patients so they can provide clients with support and advice surrounding flea issues at home.


Nutrition is another area in which veterinary receptionists are able to offer advice and support to pet owners. Although not clinically trained in nutrition, receptionists should understand:

  • The importance of a good, stable diet and a slow transition when changing food
  • The difference between a “complete” diet and a “complementary” diet
  • Feeding guides
  • The ingredients of different diets and foodstuffs

Reception staff may be trained to be able to support clients with nutrition, but should also know what services surrounding diets our clinical teams can offer.

Veterinary receptionists need to have knowledge of which brand of pet food their practice recommends and if there are any reward schemes or discounts on offer to owners.

Dental care

Preventative dental care is another aspect of animal healthcare that receptionists may be involved in. They can advise clients on tooth brushing, water supplements and dental chews and provide education regarding the heightened risk of illness and disease if owners do not keep on top of removing bacteria and tartar from their pets’ teeth.

Veterinary receptionists need to be confident in their knowledge of the products their practice recommends, what each individual product does and how it’s used. They should also be knowledgeable about their practice’s protocols for dental procedures and who to book clients in with if a clinical team member needs to assist.

Socialisation and behaviour

While veterinary receptionists will not be clinically trained to offer animal behaviour advice, they can offer support when the client is in the practice. They can provide the client with a contact for the animal behaviour services that the practice recommends or encourage a health check with a vet to rule out any underlying health concerns or issues that may be causing the presenting behavioural issues.

Receptionists also promote the importance of socialisation, particularly in younger patients, and encourage owners to bring their pets in for visits even when they don’t have booked appointments. Veterinary receptionists know the importance of socialisation in and out of practice and can confidently share this knowledge with owners.


Triage or telephone triage (the more commonly used term) is a huge part of the veterinary receptionist’s role as they deal with a multitude of scenarios including urgent and emergency situations. Some scenarios are obvious emergencies, but others may require further information to ascertain if they are life-threatening emergencies. To do this, receptionists need to know what questions to ask and how to ask them in order to determine the best course of action for the patient.

It is beneficial for receptionists to have the knowledge and skills necessary to advise clients on what to do in an emergency before they get to a clinic

It is beneficial for receptionists to have the knowledge and skills necessary to advise clients on what to do in an emergency before they get to a clinic. Some of the advice given by a receptionist in these circumstances can be lifesaving. Examples of emergency triage that receptionists can advise on are:

  • How to apply pressure to excessive bleeding
  • To keep pets undergoing seizures quiet and in a dark room (if the seizure lasts no more than three minutes)
  • Whether owners should consider using a muzzle when moving a painful dog
  • How to safely manoeuvre dogs that are off their legs
  • How to quickly and safely cool an animal showing signs of heat stroke before they reach the practice

It is important to remember to keep calm in these situations and to ensure not only that the owner has clear instructions but that they understand them as well.

Why is the veterinary receptionist’s role an important one when it comes to animal health care?

Veterinary receptionists communicate with clients verbally and non-verbally by managing the phones, emails and other virtual platforms. Their communications vary from assisting with general queries and non-clinical advice and discussing complicated insurance claims to having difficult financial conversations, consoling bereaved owners and listening to the frustrations of an angry client. They also make appropriate appointments while offering support and dealing with emergencies, often having to communicate the urgency of a situation to clients without worrying them further.

Veterinary receptionists are masters at multitasking and do so while remaining friendly, calm and professional

Receptionists do all this while managing the waiting area and reception desk as well as assisting the many clients visiting for appointments, repeat prescription collections, inpatient collections and more. They can recommend an appropriate diet for pets, discuss the importance of dental health, advise clients of the financial help available and suggest what to look for when choosing pet insurance. They advocate the adage that “prevention is better than cure” and encourage owners to join the practice healthcare plan. Receptionists also have a good understanding of how the practice runs and vast knowledge surrounding the veterinary industry.

Veterinary receptionists are masters at multitasking and do so while remaining friendly, calm and professional.

Danielle Bowers

Danielle “Dani” Bowers joined Drove Vets as a “float” receptionist in 2017, working in all five branches and the main hospital. Dani then went on to work at one of the branch practices full-time. Dani’s passion is coaching and supporting her team, so she became a staff trainer in the practice’s client care team and is now a lead receptionist at Drove’s main hospital. She recently achieved her Level 3 Customer Service specialist status after carrying out an NVQ with Paragon Skills.

Dani completed her British Veterinary Receptionist Association (BVRA) training and became an Associate Veterinary Receptionist in 2020. She became a BVRA ambassador in 2021 and is now on the BVRA council.

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