Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's unanimous - worst position at work

Working in a vet clinic can be interesting, fun, and thoroughly annoying. How annoying can fully depend on your job duties. However, I think it's safe to say that the receptionist has the worst job in the vet clinic. Even the veterinarians agree - it's quite possibly the only position they'd never want to do. Not long ago, the weekday receptionists tore this article out of a vet magazine and it totally rings true.

The worst job in the hospital - on bad days, everybody's got it rough, but I say receptionists' duties take the prize. By Dr. Andrew Rollo

Here's a question for you: What is the one position in a veterinary hospital you would dread most of all?

Is it kennel attendant? I doubt it it - picking up stool is as mundane as picking up a penny on the sidewalk. And I wish I had time to walk dogs on my busy day.

What about the technician? They have to deal with with push and pull from the doctors, but their clinical and communication skills are used more and more by doctors to connect with clients as well as the pets that brought the technicians to the profession in the first place. 

For me, the one position that would send shivers down my spine if I was asked to fill in tomorrow would be receptionist.

Giving smiles on demand
No matter how bad the day is, receptionists must smile for every client who walks in the front door. They make sure the coffee is hot and the water is cold. They keep the floors vacuumed and make sure "presents" dropped in the waiting area are picked up almost before they hit the floor. They make sure invoices are correct and smile at the sarcastic comments clients make when they pay the bill. (If a receptionist got a dime for every time a client said, "A wing of this practice should be named after me for all the money I spend here" after paying a $68 bill, they'd have some heavy pockets.) They console grieving clients and walk them out the door. They deliver the bad news to doctors that they're behind schedule by a half-hour and then get asked, "How did we get so behind?"

Taking complaints for what they didn't do
Last but not least, the front-desk team has to answer the phone - all day long. When several lines ring at once, receptionists might as well be jugglers at the circus.

Some are easy calls, but many are complicated medical questions or angry tirades about something that the receptionist had nothing to do with and doesn't have the authority to fix. By the time the doctor takes an angry call, clients are less hostile because they've vented for so long. Many times a receptionist will let me know that Mrs. Smith needs to talk to me right away and to be careful because she's upset. When I pick up, I'm greeted with a surprisingly pleasant Mrs. Smith: "Well, hello, Dr. Rollo. I really appreciate your taking my call."

Working without a hiding place
Receptionists are on the front lines, there's no place to hide behind the reception desk. They have to smile and take on anyone who comes in - a difficult client, a needy sales rep, a good Samaritan who found an injured squirrel, or a job applicant who just won't leave. Theirs are the first faces clients see when they enter the hospital and the last when they leave. They take on the anger, the sorrow, and the sarcasm, and they are occasionally rewarded by the joy.

So the next time you find yourself upset by a receptionist for not scheduling appropriately or for missing a mistake on an invoice, think about her day. Think about what she has to deal with. And appreciate all that she does to help make your hospital function.

Now, this is a perfect article. And it doesn't just fit for veterinary office receptionists - it can be said of all receptionists - or any customer service position, really. We take the hardest hit. I haven't been cussed at a lot, but I remember being yelled at by someone when whatever they're yelling about had absolutely nothing to do with me. Or anything I did. I remember one guy chewed my ass, later chewed the technician's ass, and then went for the vet. It was a totally insane day, my lobby was full like a freaking mosh pit, the phone wouldn't stop ringing, we had emergencies, we were behind, and the vet simply told the guy, "I'm only one guy." The tech and the doctor got apologies. Me? Nothing. Once, when I'd only been there a few weeks, I got cussed at because some guy got a reminder for his cat's vaccinations. Evidently his cat had been euthanized the previous spring, yet the little box somewhere in the computer didn't get unchecked, so he still got a reminder. Therefore, even though this whole thing had happened well before I had even thought of moving up here, it was still my fault.

It's my fault people get left on hold too long because I'm busy on another line or a physical customer takes longer than I think. It's my fault people forget their appointments. It's my fault that I didn't know about their appointment because I didn't make it. It's my fault we can't squeeze someone's dog in for vaccines because we're double booked all day.

That's how many people make you feel. On occasion you do get those nice folks who are patient and are in no hurry. They thank you for your time and for checking on the little things even though your swamped. The tell you to enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Would you believe that just this past Wednesday (my birthday) that I come home after a nice dinner out to a message from some gal who somehow found my home phone? I don't even give out my home phone because I can't remember it. So here's the story. Two weeks ago, this gal (we can call her Betty), called on a Thursday morning at the clinic here in Sticksville saying that she'd forgotten to call the day before (when the vet was there) for her dog's monthly shot. I remind her that the vet isn't in town, and I can't give the shot. I told her I had some time available the next week, but she declined making an appointment. (she does this all the time, calls the morning the vet's there and insists she gets in that day). The next week we're booked yet I expected her call. I almost drew up the shot, even. But nothing. My grandparents took me to Town for a nice birthday dinner, and I got home around 8ish. I had a message on the machine, and my jaw dropped when I heard it. It was Betty, calling my home with this message, "Hi this is Betty. I got busy and forgot to get my dog in this morning for his shot. Is there any way the vet can do it tomorrow?"

I. was. floored. The audacity. I waited until I got to work the next morning, and then called her back and left a message on her phone, "Hi Betty, this is J at the vet clinic. I told you last week that the doctor is only over here on Wednesdays, so I can't do the shot for you. If you want or need it done this week, you'll need call the clinic in Town and make an appointment over there. Also, this is not something you need to be calling me at home for, so in the future, please call the office and leave a message and I will get back to you. If you have any questions, please call me back at the clinic, thanks."

I have yet to hear from her.

(UPDATE: She called today (Wednesday) at the clinic at 8:30 asking if she could just "come on in". I (on the verge of rudeness) said "no, I have the doctor in surgery until 10. Then I'm double booked. "Oh so I should wait an hour?" I so wanted to ask if there was something wrong with her hearing. But I didn't. I said, "No, I'm double booked. I would wait until at least 11." She did. She waited until 11. And I made her sit there for 20 minutes. Yes I'm evil. One day, I will make her understand that it's in her best interest to make an effing appointment. Also, she did not mention the message I left her. And I told Dr. J about the whole thing. He was a bit shocked she called my home as well.)

Now, don't go thinking I hate my job, because I don't. I enjoy my job. My doctors are awesome folk who love what they do. The techs are great girls and work hard. The two office managers bust their chops to make sure the billing gets done and the books are done, and that everyone gets what they ordered. And most of the clients are nice folks who understand that vet clinics get busy. They stand in line patiently over here in Sticksville while I manually write up receipts, answer phones and jump up to help the vet if he needs an extra hand. In town, people wait patiently while I have a line of people checking in and out, answer phones and field questions. As the vets say, we try to make each person feel like they are our only client of the day. Even though with a waiting room full of people and loud pets that it's blatantly obvious they aren't.


  1. I cannot believe that she called you at home! That is nuts...over a shot! Wow, just wow. I couldn't do that job. I'm nice, sweet, etc but when people get pushy I get woah!

    It was bad enough being a Director at a daycare and dealing with crazy parents. Some first timers who would call 15 times a day for updates (those I could almost understand), others who were upset their 1-2yr olds were getting bit (kids that age bite...there's not much that can be done about it) and others who were telling their children (within my earshot) "if you get hit then hit them back". I dealt with divorce and custody battles, refusing to allow parents to pick up, calling cops, etc. Nothing angers a person like their kids.

    I suppose I get this whole scenario...but that was just a small part of my job. No way could I be that person ALL the time. Kudos to anyone who can.

    1. When I heard her name on the machine, I whipped around to face it. Jaw dropped. I mean, I understand, it's a small valley and if it had been some kind of emergency, I would have called her back. But instead, it was massive lack of planning on her part.

      Oh, I couldn't handle a daycare gig. I mean, I can understand it's tough when parents first start leaving their kids at daycare. But the rest of it, oh no. Not me. Kudos to you for doing it for awhile.

  2. oooooof that does sound horrid, don't think it's going to make me stop my bitching though. lolz :))

  3. I. Cannot. Believe. She. Called. Your. Home.


    What freaking planet is she on where that kind-of thing is appropriate?!

    Sometimes, people shock the *bleep* out of me.

    1. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Seriously. I was so pissed! To make matters worse, she's older gal, which probably means her memory is going as well. I could be in trouble in the fact that it could happen again.


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