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InFocus

What is the current landscape for veterinary receptionists?

The BVRA recently carried out its annual Receptionist Survey for 2021 which focused on four main aspects of the role in practice: pay, morale, CPD and the impact of COVID-19

British Veterinary Receptionist Association (BVRA) logo

Carried out by the British Veterinary Receptionist Association (BVRA), the 2021 Receptionist Survey​ was completed by 417 individuals who are currently employed in the role of a veterinary receptionist in both corporate and independent veterinary practices (close to a 50:50 split) across the UK.

The general profile of individuals in the role, according to those surveyed, was found to be consistent with previous years. Most were between 22 and 55 years of age; 57 percent were of GCSE level of education; and 98 percent were female. The participants had generally been in their role for one to five years, although 12 percent had held their positions for over 15 years.

Pay

Seventy-three percent of those surveyed were being paid more than the minimum wage for their age bracket. However, despite this, 61 percent felt that they were not paid fairly for the job that they do and only 30 percent of those surveyed were satisfied with their pay. One participant said that they feel receptionists overall are underpaid for the amount of responsibility they have to take.

It was stated that receptionists could earn the same amount stacking shelves in a supermarket without the mental pressure and stress that is put on them at times. It was also stated that receptionists require large amounts of knowledge in order to make the right call as to when patients need to be seen and to give the “advice” that clients want, but that they are not financially rewarded for this skillset.

It was stated that receptionists could earn the same amount stacking shelves in a supermarket without the mental pressure and stress that is put on them at times

In terms of working hours, receptionists are most commonly contracted to work 30 to 40 hours per week. However, 18 percent of participants stated that they regularly work for longer than their contracted hours with 33 percent not receiving any overtime pay.

One participant stated that they felt the number of overtime hours has increased as a result of increased demand on the services coupled with pandemic-related changes. They felt that COVID-19 has been used as an excuse for making certain changes within their practice, particularly the number of hours worked, with no changes to contracts or pay.

Support, recognition and relationships

Forty-six percent of participants felt that they receive a good level of support but only 32 percent were satisfied with the level of recognition they received. Thirty-six percent of veterinary receptionists who participated in the survey reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their learning and development opportunities. However, it seems that there is room for improvement in the level of progression opportunities available to receptionists, with only 24 percent being satisfied with this aspect of their role.

Relationships within the practice environment are another important aspect of overall morale. Receptionists’ relationships with vets and nurses appear to be quite positive with 67 percent and 70 percent being satisfied with these respectively. Fifty-one percent reported being less than satisfied with their relationship with their practice managers, 48 percent were less than satisfied with their relationship with clinical directors/partners and 80 percent were less than satisfied with their relationship with their head office.

Only 50 percent of the receptionists who responded to the BVRA Receptionist Survey had regular appraisals to discuss their opinions, performance and development

Overall, 34 percent of participants were satisfied with the practice morale and 37 percent with their team morale. Only 50 percent of the receptionists who responded to the BVRA Receptionist Survey had regular appraisals to discuss their opinions, performance and development. These exercises would be welcomed by customer care teams as 75 percent of participating receptionists felt comfortable approaching their line managers for support and coaching.

CPD

CPD is an important aspect of any role within the veterinary profession given its dynamic nature. As such, 34 percent of those surveyed rated “keeping up to date and increasing their knowledge” as the most important benefit of completing CPD.

I’m always allowed to do CPD – in my own time

BVRA Receptionist Survey, 2021

With this in mind, it is surprising that 73 percent of participants said that their practice does not allocate any dedicated time for them to participate in CPD. Also, 33 percent of receptionists have no CPD allowance, and 32 percent are not actively encouraged to do CPD. However, individuals within the role of veterinary receptionist are keen to increase their knowledge for the benefit of the practice and its clients, as well as for personal development, with 65 percent saying they want to do more CPD.

COVID-19

Following the pandemic, it is comforting to know that 88 percent of the practices represented by the BVRA survey participants reported that they are now allowing clients back inside the practices in limited numbers. Ninety-two percent were also now back to normal operating hours.

COVID-19 safety, uncertainty and stress

Eighty-nine percent of respondents reported that clients must wear masks at all times, 86 percent said that staff must wear a mask at all times, 88 percent are using screens/barriers at reception desks and 77 percent have public facing signs stating the practice’s COVID-19 protocols and safety measures. However, uncertainty remained when participants were asked to score how safe they felt under the current working conditions in practice on a scale of 0 to 10: the average score was just 2 out of 10.

One participant stated that her team are happy with the current COVID-19 guidelines in their practice, but are worried about restrictions being lifted, risking the team and their families if clients are able to freely come in and out of the practice.

I feel very lucky to work in the practice I do, they have been fantastic throughout the pandemic

BVRA Receptionist Survey, 2021

Our 2020 survey was carried out during the peak of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, with 22 percent of our participants being concerned about being made redundant because of the unprecedented impact on the industry. In this year’s survey, however, this figure reduced to just 7 percent, with 89 percent reporting that no one in their practice had actually been made redundant – a very encouraging sign that job security was not drastically affected in the long term.

Comments made by those carrying out the survey regarding the pandemic highlighted the additional stress, anxiety and pressures that were felt by front-of-house teams

Comments made by those carrying out the survey regarding the pandemic highlighted the additional stress, anxiety and pressures that were felt by front-of-house teams. One participant said “[COVID-19] has made practice/working extremely stressful, unrelenting and exhausting. In short, people working in the veterinary profession are suffering from exhaustion and burnout like never before.”

New technology

The pandemic introduced new ways of working and, in particular, new technologies into the customer journey within vet practices. Our survey highlighted the use of these technologies: 35 percent reported using video consults, 39 percent introduced online payments and 30 percent set up click and collect services for prescriptions and food. However, 37 percent of participants said that no new technology was introduced at their practices.

Morale

A critical element in running a successful practice is retaining good staff; employee morale and job satisfaction is crucial to successful staff retention.

I have received more abuse over the last year than I have in nearly 25 years in the veterinary field

BVRA Receptionist Survey, 2021

The average overall job satisfaction score from the participants of this year’s survey was 3 out of 10. This low morale score seems to be overwhelmingly due to increased workload and impatient, rude clients, which was clear from participants’ comments. One individual stated that “the abuse we all now face is totally unacceptable in any workplace but seems pertinent to veterinary practice. There are not enough hours in the day or staff to keep up with demand placed on us.”

It is hoped that the survey will help to raise awareness of veterinary receptionists in the UK.

For further information about the BVRA and this year’s annual receptionist survey, please visit the BVRA website.

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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