Research reveals morale crisis among veterinary receptionists

A recent survey of veterinary receptionists in the UK has confirmed high levels of dissatisfaction in the role, with regards to poor pay, lack of CPD provisions, and difficulties with inter-practice relationships.

Receptionist salary and working hours

69% of participants in the survey reported being paid less than £10 per hour, resulting in high levels of dissatisfaction. The data shows that only 50% of veterinary receptionists are paid more than the UK minimum national living wage. 33% said that they worked  longer than their contracted hours, with 37% reported not receiving any overtime pay. As a result, 64% of those questioned felt that they were not being paid fairly for the level of responsibilities in their role.

This research highlights that levels of discontentment were exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic. 49% of receptionists were furloughed, and 91% reported receiving no top-up pay from their practice in addition to the 80% contribution from the government. 

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

Veterinary receptionist CPD

The study also found reduced access to CPD also being an issue amongst veterinary receptionists. 56% respondents want to develop their knowledge within their role, but lack of time in their job was reported a barrier. 80% of practices didn’t allocate time for receptionist CPD, with 44% receiving no budget for it. 

Relationships with the practice team

While 71% respondents expressed high levels of satisfaction with their relationships with vets and 74% with nurses, fewer than half (46%) were satisfied with their practice manager. 51% were satisfied with the relationship with their clinical director, and only 26% were satisfied with head office if their practice was part of a corporate group. 

Relationships were shown to be strained further during the Covid-19 pandemic, with 71% of those furloughed reporting that communication with their boss had been average to poor.

Job satisfaction

Participants were asked to express satisfaction with various aspects of their role. 25% were satisfied with their salary, 21% with the opportunities to progress within their role, and only 29% were satisfied with the recognition they received within their job from other members of the team. When asked to rate their overall levels of satisfaction, the average score across participants 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, 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.”

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.  Further information is available here.