The receptionist

dvm360dvm360 February 2023
Volume 54
Issue 2
Pages: 42

A clinic’s workforce receives a rude awakening when a hierarchy that demoralizes the receptionist is revealed

Editor’s note: All names and businesses in this dilemma case are fictitious, but the scenario is based on real occurrences.

Jordi Mora /

Jordi Mora /

Cliff Animal Hospital is a small animal practice with 5 veterinarians, 9 technicians, and 5 receptionists. The veterinarians are excellent and the quality of medical care unparalleled, but the clinic’s day-to-day administration is inefficient and a bit chaotic.

When clients arrive, they are greeted by a receptionist. The receptionist confirms appointments, updates files, and relays necessary information to the technicians. At the same time, they are answering the phone, scheduling appointments, and fielding questions that they then pass on to technicians, veterinarians, or administrators. In effect, all initial communication with the Cliff Animal Hospital begins at the reception desk.

Recently, the reception supervisor met with the hospital manager. Speaking on behalf of her staff, she said that the receptionists were a bit overwhelmed and, more specifically, that when they interacted with doctors and technicians, they were often rebuffed and told that the medical staff member was “too busy” or did not have time to be of assistance. She felt that her receptionists were not being treated as part of the medical team although they worked hard to assist pet patients. As the discussion progressed, it became evident that there was an unacceptable hierarchy at the clinic.

The hospital administrator acknowledged that doctors were considered more important than technicians and technicians more important than receptionists. This unspoken hierarchy had led some staff members to feel they were entitled to dismiss certain coworkers, which disrupted the effectiveness of the team and undermined morale. The administrator told the reception supervisor that she would be making some changes to improve staff cooperation and discourage hierarchical thinking.

At the next staff meeting, the administrator described the perceived hierarchy and selected a representative from each of the staff categories to assist with communication. In addition, each technician was assigned a weekly shift in reception to better appreciate what it is that receptionists deal with every day. She also told the group that staff members don’t work for each other but that they must work together as equals while attending to their own responsibilities. This was the only way to improve clinic efficiency and eliminate the chaos. In many cases, she added, receptionists have the most challenging assignments in the entire clinic and are often underappreciated and unsupported. This would no longer be the case at the Cliff Animal Hospital.

How would you approach this common workplace challenge? We would like to know.

Rosenberg's response

For some reason, certain professionals view receptionists as dispensable and technicians and veterinarians as indispensable. Nothing could be further from the truth. These staff members must combine tolerance, compassion, and charisma far more than any other of their colleagues. Productivity, profit, and client satisfaction are the result of cooperation. Communication is key, and it should be noted that every visit begins and ends with a receptionist interaction.

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