As part of the ongoing series introducing the BVRA ambassadors, this month we chatted to Jo Civil, RVR, to find out more about her role as a veterinary receptionist and an ambassador.
How long have you been a veterinary receptionist and how did your career in practice begin?
I have been a veterinary receptionist for almost 10 years now. I began my veterinary career on a part-time basis as the sole receptionist in our practice. Working part-time was an ideal option as my children were still young and I also ran “The Bunnery”, a small animal hotel, from home. So, between everything, it kept me very busy.
I have always had a great passion for animals, particularly my love of French lop rabbits; I now have eight rescue rabbits, four rescue guinea pigs and my lovely black Labrador, Beth. So, when the job of part-time receptionist was advertised in my local paper for 387 Vets, I immediately put pen to paper and applied.
Over the past 10 years, the practice has grown from strength to strength and with that, so have the opportunities within the practice. In 2017 I won Petplan’s Support Staff of the Year award, and I can’t begin to explain the overwhelming feeling of being put forward for the award and then winning. I am now a full-time lead receptionist responsible for a team of four.
What aspects of your role do you find most rewarding?
Firstly, it has to be the pets I get to meet and greet every day – seeing them arrive as puppies and kittens, and then seeing the little characters they develop into over the years. There is nothing better than speaking with a client who is concerned about their pet, booking them in to be seen and then watching their pet walk out as a fitter and healthier dog, all because of the treatment we have given.
There is nothing better than speaking with a client who is concerned about their pet, booking them in to be seen and then watching their pet walk out as a fitter and healthier dog, all because of the treatment we have given
Also, developing relationships and friendships with owners is very rewarding. We can witness and experience so many different emotions all in one day, from the joy and elation of a new puppy owner to the sadness at the loss of a beloved pet. We get very close with owners, especially when you have known them for 10 years or more, and I have been told many close-guarded secrets, sometimes too much information!
What challenges do you frequently face and how do you overcome them?
I find it a real challenge not to be accepted as “just a receptionist”. It takes a considerable amount of work to show owners and colleagues how valuable receptionists are. We are the front face of the practice; we are telephonists, first-aid responders, poo pickers, agony aunts, shoulders to cry on, problem solvers and great organisers!
I find it a real challenge not to be accepted as “just a receptionist”. It takes a considerable amount of work to show owners and colleagues how valuable receptionists are
What inspires and motivates you to be your best at work?
I get my motivation from not just doing a “good” job, but a great, above and beyond job, and by feeling that I have made a difference to someone’s day. I take pride in my work, in the practice I work in and in the feeling of seeing the practice grow and flourish; this is my motivation. It might be helping a colleague in practice who is struggling or an owner who needs comforting when their pet is poorly, or even just making cakes and bakes for the team. I just want to make a difference.
What does it mean to you to hold the title of BVRA Registered Veterinary Receptionist?
In an industry that is driven by staff holding the title of “qualified” registered veterinary surgeon or “qualified” registered veterinary nurse and having a defined career path, I always felt that receptionists were the forgotten strength, referred to as someone who just answers the phone. So, when BVRA was born I felt it really gave a strength and purpose to the role of veterinary receptionists. I wear my RVR badge with pride and use my post-nominals on all practice correspondence. While the public may not know what it stands for, they will understand it has some relevance to a qualification.
Would you encourage others in the role to become an RVR?
Most definitely! I began the BVRA course when I was furloughed due to the pandemic and I didn’t want to put it down, I just wanted to keep going. I think the course is thought-provoking and really delves into the role of the veterinary receptionist. RVR is not an end goal either: by completing other courses and events you not only maintain RVR status, but also develop as an individual, and who knows where career opportunities may take you.
How valuable is the support of the BVRA to the profession of veterinary receptionists?
One word – fundamental. Until now receptionists had no formal training or guidance and, as I remember, I was dropped in at the deep end on a busy Monday and just got on with it. Now the BVRA is a recognised body – it’s not just about courses and events, but also has a community of like-minded individuals all doing the same job and sharing the same challenges. Congress was amazing, with two days of being centre of attention and all of us coming together to help each other deal with day-to-day issues.
What does it mean to you to be a BVRA ambassador and what does the role involve?
I was so humbled to be asked to be an ambassador. When I got an email asking to call them, my heart was in my mouth, and I was thinking “please let it be Kay asking me to be an ambassador!”
The BVRA ambassadors take a lead role in helping other receptionists deal with the issues and challenges they face day to day
The role of veterinary receptionist has evolved so much over the years but there is also greater potential to be heard and recognised further. The BVRA ambassadors take a lead role in helping other receptionists deal with the issues and challenges they face day to day. We help with various things, from writing articles to raising awareness of what veterinary receptionists do.
How would you like to see the role of veterinary receptionist evolve over the next five years?
I think the BVRA have already got the ball rolling with this one, but joining forces with organisations like Vetpol, so that receptionists can become SQPs. I became a RAMA a little over 12 months ago; this not only helps me serve clients better, but also raises the profile of the receptionist within the practice. I have just started doing a lot of work in practice in quality improvement and driving auditing. It all adds interest and diversity to the role, and it helps colleagues and the practice to get better and grow.
I would like to see receptionists have a defined career path to either becoming a veterinary nurse or going into practice management
I would like to see receptionists have a defined career path to either becoming a veterinary nurse or going into practice management (if those are careers that interest them of course).
Describe a typical day as a veterinary receptionist
We are a jack of all trades, and master of many! We are the chameleons of the practice – there are many facets to being an efficient, empathetic receptionist and we experience so much in one day. One minute we can be registering a new puppy while cleaning up their wee, and the next minute consoling an owner who is saying goodbye to their faithful old companion. It has its challenges and its frustrations; one minute is joyful and the next is full of sadness, but as long as I can go home at night knowing I have done my very best, there is no better job in the whole world!