At some point during owning an animal most of us will have had to call the vets. This could have been to make an appointment or ask for advice. However, have you ever wondered who answers the phone when you call. Do they introduce themselves when they answer, most will give their name, but do they tell you, their role? Is it a vet, nurse or receptionist that you’re speaking to? 

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The role of the veterinary receptionist

Back in the day nurses would be answering the phones in most practices. While some smaller practices may still use their nurses to do this, most – especially the bigger practices – will have a team of receptionists. A receptionist plays a crucial role within the practice, a practice cannot run without a receptionist, it would be chaos without them. A receptionist has many roles. 

The first and most important role is client communication which includes answering the phones. When calling the vets, a receptionist will be the first person that you will speak to. They are trained individuals that can handle a range of enquiries, provide general health care advice, take food orders, relay enquiries, take payments and order prescriptions, all over the phone. In many practices, the receptionist will also be managing online or digital enquiries through live chat, WhatsApp, or other messaging services too. 

Part of the role of answering the phone includes booking appointments

This takes training and judgement, but good receptionists will be able to advise if they think your appointment should be urgent, or if it’s OK to wait until the next available. When calling about a sick pet, a receptionist will help the veterinary team by beginning the triage process by asking you as owners the relevant information about the health of your pet, they would then communicate this to the vets and nurses. The reception team is also trained to recognise when something is an emergency when talking to you as clients.

When it comes to advice over the phone the reception team can provide limited advice. They can discuss flea and worm treatment, vaccination protocols, neutering and various other subjects, depending on their experience but they cannot diagnose. They may often relay information back to owners from instruction of the vet, this sometimes saves you waiting for a vet to get in touch.

The reception team not only answer phone calls, but they are the first faces you will see when you enter the practice. Another part of their role with client communication is to greet you when you arrive. During this time, they will check you in for your appointment, discuss any health plans if asked and take payments. A receptionist’s role may vary over different practices, but their main role is client communication which is talking to you as clients. 

Out of hours

Unfortunately, some of us as owners will have to use an emergency service for our pets. This means you need veterinary assistance out of hours. All veterinary practices must provide some out of hours service, that could be within the practice or could mean you’re transferred to a different practice. When calling this service, you would speak to a different team of people. It could be a veterinary nurse that you speak to, or a vet, or in some cases  specially trained emergency call handler – any of which would guide and advise you on the best cause of action. When ringing this service, it is ideal to give clear and precise information to help them give you the correct advice. 

My pet is hospitalised, who will I speak to?

Often our pets must stay in at the practice. This could be as a day patient or an overnight patient. Depending on the situation depends on who you will speak to during this time. Pets that are staying in for procedures like neutering, it is a veterinary nurse that you will speak to for an update. Pets that are staying at the practice due to illness, you’ll often speak to the vet in charge of their care to discuss updates and a plan of action, you may also speak to a nurse in-between these times for updates. 

Can I speak to a vet when I ring?

Sometimes we may ring the vets because we want some advice. Or we may want to discuss some treatment that our pet is having or some results. Vets aren’t usually on hand to speak to straight away so don’t be alarmed if a receptionist makes an inquiry for a vet to return your call. If general advice is needed, you will likely be navigated to a member of the nursing team. 

Conclusion

Most practices have a very experienced team of receptionists that are there to help us as clients. If you ever wish to speak to another member of the veterinary team, then always ask. 

Further reading:

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