A balancing act: Jennifer Graham's story


To this day, I still feel that the receptionist has the most stressful and undervalued position in the veterinary clinic.

I recently celebrated my 13th year in veterinary medicine. I've spent the last two at my current practice, Bradford Hills Veterinary Hospital. To this day, I still feel that the receptionist has the most stressful and undervalued position in the clinic. While it's not a physically challenging position, it can be very mentally taxing. You have the most contact with clients and have to be on your game all day, every day—showing 'em wow service with a smile.

The most challenging part of my job has always been not taking things personally. When clients get upset, it's usually not at you directly. They're upset at the situation and they've got to vent their frustrations on someone. It takes a really talented person to deal with those unhappy clients in a professional manner, troubleshoot a situation, and find a solution. As they say, if it was easy, everyone would do it.

My boyfriend, Tom, and I have been together for 17 years. We share a house—and all the fun stuff that comes with it—with our three cats. Cleo, my oldest, at almost 16 years old, is hyperthyroid, so she requires a lot of extra care: twice-daily medication, frequent meals, regular exams, and blood testing. I work 40 hours a week, including some Saturdays. I'm definitely a morning person, so I'm extremely lucky to be able to work all morning shifts. I feel I'm able to be more productive during the day.

When I'm not working, thinking about work, or planning marketing materials for work, I like to write for work. I write a monthly one-page newsletter for the team—just for fun. It's as much for me as it is for the rest of the team. Writing is done at home, where it's quiet, usually in the evenings. I always keep a notebook or two on me at all times to jot down notes, phrases, or ideas to explore later.

If I'm not working or writing, Tom and I like to spend time outdoors walking, hiking, riding bikes, and taking lots of pictures. Our house is an antique, so we also do a lot of home improvement projects and landscaping. I'm also an avid reader—hardbacks, paperbacks, newspapers, magazines, web articles—you name it!

I think the best way to create a healthy work-life balance is to be able to step away from one or the other. If you're having a problem at home, you need to be able to leave it at the door when you come to work. Clients and patients deserve our best efforts everyday. As such, if you've had a negative situation at work with a client or co-worker, leave it at the door when you punch out for the day. Your family also deserves your best efforts and attention.

Jennifer Graham Client services shift leader Bradford Hills Veterinary Hospital Wexford, Pa.

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