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Research reveals morale crisis among veterinary receptionists

The BVRA and VMG are joining forces to host a free webinar to discuss the issues raised by the survey and potential solutions

17 November 2020, at 9:00am

A survey of veterinary receptionists in the UK has confirmed a high level of dissatisfaction caused by:

  • Poor levels of pay: 69 percent of those participating in the survey are paid less than £10 per hour
  • A lack of CPD: Despite their responsibilities, 80 percent said that their practice did not give them time to undertake CPD
  • Inter-practice relationships: Fewer than half (46 percent) were satisfied or very satisfied with their relationship with their practice manager

The BVRA and VMG are joining forces to host a free webinar to discuss the issues raised by the survey and potential solutions. Called Tackling Receptionist Morale Together, it will take place from 2.00pm-4.00 pm on Wednesday 25 November.

Salary

The data shows that only 50 percent of veterinary receptionists participating in the survey are paid more than the UK minimum/National Living Wage. 33 percent said they worked longer than their contracted hours while 37 percent said they didn’t receive overtime pay. As a result, 64 percent of those questioned felt they were not paid fairly for the responsibilities they carry, which include ensuring practice protocols, handling veterinary medicines, promoting “sales” eg of healthcare plans and dealing with often challenging clients.

Discontent with salary levels was exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Half of respondents (49 percent) were furloughed and 91 percent of these received no top-up pay from their practice in addition to the government’s 80 percent contribution.

The BVRA recommends that Registered Veterinary Receptionists (RVRs) are paid at least £10 per hour, irrespective of their age.

CPD

A lack of access to CPD was also an issue. 56 percent of respondents wanted to update and increase their knowledge but the same percentage claimed a lack of time was a barrier. With 80 percent of practices not allocating time for receptionists to undertake CPD and 44 percent receiving no budget for it, one respondent from a corporate practice confirmed that they could only undertake CPD in their own time, even that required by the company, such as training on health and safety and compliance.

Working relationships with the practice team

While participants expressed a high level of satisfaction with their relationships with vets (71 percent were satisfied or very satisfied) and nurses (74 percent were satisfied or very satisfied), the same cannot be said for their relationships with practice managers. Fewer than half (46 percent) were satisfied or very satisfied with their relationship with their practice manager and 51 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with their relationship with the Clinical Director or Partner. Only a quarter (26 percent) were satisfied with their working relationship with head office (if part of a corporate group). Relationships were further strained during the COVID-19 pandemic with 71 percent of those furloughed saying communication with their practice boss had been average or poor.

As a final question, participants were asked to express their satisfaction with aspects of their role:

  • 25 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with their salary
  • 21 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with progression opportunities
  • 29 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with the recognition they received

When asked to rate their overall satisfaction of their job out of ten, the average score was three out of ten.

The survey of 812 veterinary receptionists was undertaken during August and September 2020 by the British Veterinary Receptionists Association (BVRA), a not-for-profit membership organisation, whose mission is to recognise and raise the status of receptionists within the veterinary profession.

Commenting on the results, Brian Faulkner BSc (Hons), BVM&S, CertGP(SAM), CertGP(BPS), MBA, MSc(Psych), FRCVS, founder of the BRVA, said: “BVRA is always working to improve the recognition, respect and job satisfaction of its members. We are delighted to team up with VMG as another way of doing this, alongside developing the status of a Registered Veterinary Receptionist.”

Rich Casey is President of the Veterinary Management Group (VMG) which is working to support and promote 21st century leadership across the veterinary sector and recently published its Leadership Standards Framework to support and promote great leadership and management. He commented:

“This report is sobering reading as it concerns the careers and wellbeing of a group of people who are essential to the success of any veterinary practice. The VMG is particularly interested in this research as a significant proportion of our members are practice managers and likely to be line managers of the reception team. Leadership is about recognising when things aren’t working and putting them right. We commend the BVRA for highlighting these issues and we ask all veterinary leaders and managers to join our webinar as we discuss what can be done to resolve this crisis now, as well as the longer-term steps that are needed.”