Front Office Frustrations

Elevate the front office team’s medical prowess to coincide with the difficult job they do.

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The other day, we needed to order more heartworm, flea and tick preventive for our Cavalier named Joy (notice the Bark Busters “bah bag” next to her in photo!). She is boarded on occasion and we ran out of preventive right before a camping trip; we take our Georgia with us camping, but Joy tries to eat all the vegetation and just acts nervous the whole time. One of our challenges with Joy is that she has some type of intermittent GI mess that causes bloody diarrhea and bad cramping. Previously we switched her to a hypoallergenic diet, and we resist giving her anything other than that special food, including chewable heartworm preventive. So at that time we switched her to a topical that does it all: heartworm, flea and tick.

My partner called the veterinary clinic so we could run up real quick on a Saturday before they closed (yes, we are that family that is calling at 11 a.m. despite your closing at noon! No, we didn’t see before that we were out, and yes, of course, it was an emergency!…all said with a smile, but don’t we all hate “those” clients?)


Katherine needed heartworm, flea and tick preventive for Joy last minute
Katherine's Cavalier, Joy

Although I wasn’t the one making the call, I heard our end of the conversation, and it was probably a good thing I was not doing the talking because I became increasingly frustrated as the discussion preceded like this:


“Joy needs heartworm stuff, we think it’s X-brand” 
(NOTE: I told Mary Ann, my partner, the name I remembered, which of course was not “X-brand,” but I am trying to keep this blog unbiased!)

Pause while receptionist responded.

“It’s not something she eats because she has stomach issues.”

Another pause, another response perhaps?

“It’s something we put on her that does everything.”

By this time I’m telling her to say, “Tell her it’s topical, all-in-one”…

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Pause while Joy’s record is researched.

By this time I am thinking, doesn’t she know what “topical” means? Shameful!

OK, in the end it got worked out, and it turns out it was hard to find the information in Joy’s record, and apparently none of our verbal descriptions helped. I was frustrated, because once again I felt that the front office person was made to seem incompetent…which I didn’t blame her for, but instead blamed the practice for not giving her the tools and type of medical education that would have helped her immediately deduce what product we needed to buy.

I spend a large part of my time teaching, writing and consulting on the topic of raising the respect and self-respect for the front office personnel in veterinary medicine. I completely agree that they have the most difficult job of anyone in the practice, yet a lot of the time it is because of the lack of training offered by the organization. They are NOT clueless, but sometimes are made to SEEM clueless because we have failed to GIVE them the CLUES they need. I just think it’s shameful. In my experience, they want to learn, and we need to spend as much or more time attending to our front office training as we do our medical support staff.

If there’s one thing I’d like to see in veterinary medicine, it’s an elevation of the front office team’s medical prowess to coincide with the difficult job they do…they are our life blood, so let’s teach them about blood cells!

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